Where community and environmental literacy come together:
Relax. Sit down. Enjoy. Connect.

July 5, 2012

Up in Smoke

Wyoming's Fontanelle Fire, June 27, 2012

Wildfire season is in full swing and the West is going up in smoke. We've all been watching and reading the news about the devastating fires burning in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Many of us have been praying, donating to firefighting efforts, and Googling how to do rain dances, all in an effort to help the cause.

Colorado's fires are of epic, apocalyptic proportions. Its Waldo Fire is the most destructive in the state's history, with nearly 350 homes lost and over 18,500 acres burned. Its High Park Fire is the second largest and second-most destructive, having consumed 259 homes and nearly 90,000 acres. (Statistics are current as of the date of posting.)

The western half of the country is suffering from sweltering temperatures and low to non-existent precipitation, which coupled with the devastation caused by the mountain pine beetle in our forests, it's a recipe for disaster. Sean Barry, of the Arbor Day Foundation, recently wrote, "Fighting the pine beetle will help in the next fight against forest fires," and had this to say: 

"The pine beetle is arguably "enemy no. 1" of pines trees. For years, the pest has been quick and resilient, and forest professionals have struggled to keep up. As firefighters in Colorado continue to tackle what has become one of the largest forest fires in state history, the Associated Press reports that beetle-stricken trees – many of them dead or dying – have become an increasing safety concern. The challenge was particularly apparent in the foothills about 15 miles from Fort Collins, [where] fire managers said the blaze’s west side was a concern because 70 percent of the trees had been killed by pine beetles, leaving drying wooden poles with branches and red pine needles that pose a hazard for firefighters."

In the United States, 9 of every 10 forest, brush, and grass fires are caused by the carelessness of humans. The key to being smart around fire is to use common sense. We can all take some cues from good ol' Smokey Bear, a tried and true marketing tool of the U.S. Forest Service. Smokey's Be Smart Outdoors campaign offers tips on how to be safe both at home and while recreating. Smokey teaches how to properly build and put out a campfire, how to create defensible spaces around your home (if you live in a Wildland Urban Interface or WUI), and how to drive and park your cars, trucks, and ATVs safely. As Smokey says, "only you can prevent forest fires." This is an especially poignant statement this year, as 2012 is poised to be one of the worst fire seasons in the history of the western U.S.

Visit these websites for additional wildfire preparedness and safety information:
Ready, Set, Go!
Smokey Bear
US Forest Service - Fire and Aviation Management
Utah Fire Info


No comments: