The largest fire in Colorado history continues to rage today as scientists warn that global warming will lead to bigger and more frequent blazes.
The Black Forest Fire has so far claimed two lives and 379 homes and forced the emergency evacuation of 38,000 people. The U.S. military, national guard, and over 750 firefighters have been called in to fight the flames that stalled at 25 square miles on Friday.
While the cause of the fire is unknown, drought and heightened Colorado temperatures hastened its spread.
Yet, the danger zone extends far beyond the fire's destructive path.
The New York Times reports that communities throughout the West face threatening conditions:
After years of drought and a dry winter, communities across the West have been bracing for a brutal summer wildfire season. Thousands of acres are burning in California, and several wildfires erupted in Colorado and New Mexico, burning through a national park, sage and juniper hills and the once-idyllic community of Black Forest.
A February USDA report directly points to global warming as the real culprit behind increasing wild fires that will only worsen as temperatures continue to rise.
This warning is echoed by scientists and scholars. Mother Jones reports:
Big wildfires like Colorado's thrive in dry air, low humidity, and high winds; climate change is going to make those conditions more frequent over the next century. We know because it's already happening: A University of Arizona report from 2006 found that large forest fires have occurred more often in the western United States since the mid-1980s as spring temperatures increased, snow melted earlier, and summers got hotter, leaving more and drier fuels for fires to devour.
Thomas Tidwell, the head of the United States Forest Service, told a Senate committee on energy and natural resources recently that the fire season now lasts two months longer and destroys twice as much land as it did four decades ago. Fires now, he said, burn the same amount of land faster.
Meanwhile, Colorado residents fear that this fire threatens a repeat of last year's particularly destructive fire season, as Denver met a new record of the earliest day in the year to reach 100 degrees.
Saturday June 15, 2013, 8:12 am
My daughter lives in Colorado Springs. The fire is on her side of town this time. I hope that if she has to evacuate that she gets ample warning, but it is not possible with the high winds the fire is moving too fast. As of yesterday, she was still safe. We really need to do something about clearing the forests around cities, and far enough that the embers don't fall on people roofs and set their homes on fire. Keep fires in mind when doing landscaping too in these now fire prone areas; which are actually nearly anywhere.
Saturday June 15, 2013, 9:20 am
My Well thoughts and wishes to you also, Barbara, and for your daughter and her family. Fires are a frightening event, anywhere here in the US. My daughter lives in southern California, and it seems that there are always fires going on out there. Fires are currently north of LA. My family and I were affected by wildfires here in Bastrop, Texas in 2011. Our fire department did not give us much time to evacuate, and I had to get the family pets in crates, and pack quickly for a two week stay elsewhere. When we finally got back into our house, the landscape and wildlife destruction was complete. We are still working on planting seedling trees in the state park, and elsewhere, and I still put buckets of water out on the lawn for the deer every morning. Thank you, Kit for this information.
Saturday June 15, 2013, 9:56 am
Thank you, Kit, and Gran Pat, these wildfires are frightening and I know you both have been or had family members in the same situation. The climate change, I fear, will only get worse until we get some in Congress to wake up to reality and do something about it. Thanks again, I really appreciate it and am worried senseless.
Saturday June 15, 2013, 10:30 am
I pray for the whole state - I am not that close but another one popped up yesterday - they reported this is the worse Colorado fire that has ever existed in their record keeping - and it's not over! thanks Kit.
Saturday June 15, 2013, 12:59 pm
The winds in CA have been atypically strong and gusty in recent weeks and this type of weather usually reaches CO for similar (when there is rain, the precipitation aspects often change when crossing the Rockies). My heart goes out to all--I once had to be packed up with a preevacuation fire warning--not fun at all.
Sunday June 16, 2013, 2:22 am
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM SUGGESTS HUMANS BAND TOGETHER WHEN FACED WITH A COMMON ENEMY...CLIMATE CHANGE IS A COMMON ENEMY THREATENING OUR PLANET AND OUR EXISTENCE. IRONICALY, NATIONS INSTEAD OF WORKING TOGETHER SEEM TO DISTANCE THEMSELVES MORE AND MORE FROM EACH OTHER??? THEY GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT NONE ARE TOO KEEN ON FINDING A SOLUTION...INSTEAD TRYING TO FIND A SUITABLE PLANET TO ESCAPE TO !!!!! WOW, WISDOM OF THE AGES. LOL
Sunday June 16, 2013, 8:58 am
Barbara, a little prayer for your family members and all the people caught up in this terrible fire. Fire is scary and of course the devastation and destruction it leaves behind as well as deaths.....And then it happens all over again...