An early start to wildfire season took northern Colorado residents by surprise late last week. Two fires broke out on Friday, fanned by unusually high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds, which forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. And the state has been suffering from epic, epic drought, so that’s really helping with the burning.
The early-season wildfires could be a bad omen for drought-stricken Colorado, which had one of its worst ever wildfire seasons in 2012.
All of Colorado is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Snowpack levels in the Colorado mountains are below the annual average. The state’s high-population urban corridor and farmers on the eastern plains rely on melting mountain snow for drinking water and irrigation.
As local fire captain Patrick Love told the Los Angeles Times, “the drought that we have been in, in this portion of the state, has somewhat played a role in the dryness of all the fuels.”
The two wildfires were contained over the weekend, but the unseasonable blaze really freaked out Colorado residents who were hit with hundreds of wildfires last year, which ultimately burned out tens of thousands of acres.
Two Colorado state senators are now pushing for the state to bankroll its own aerial fleet of fire-fighting planes, as the federal fleet is aging, depleted, and often slow in responding. “We are pushing our luck when we think that the federal government will come flying in to save Colorado when it’s burning,” Sen. Steve King (R) told 7NEWS.
Not that King is wrong per se, but we’re missing the big picture if we think that more fire-fighting airplanes and helicopters are the answer to a scorched Western landscape.