Originally published on Fri September 19, 2014 3:28 pm
In many parts of Colorado when you dial 9-1-1 to report a fire, the firefighters who arrive to extinguish it are volunteers. These firefighters have other jobs, and serve half of the state’s population. But Colorado has an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers, leaving many communities at risk.
Colorado Springs officials held a neighborhood evacuation drill for residents of Broadmoor Bluffs over the weekend. Fire officials say that neighborhood has stepped up mitigation efforts in the past year and a half, but because of topography, the amount of fuels, and housing density, Broadmoor Bluffs is one of the highest risk neighborhoods in the city’s wildland urban interface. KRCC News embedded with first responders and a family that chose to participate in the drill. We start with reporter Kate Dunn.
Colorado fire fighters say the state needs to make major changes in order to protect the public from increasingly devastating wildfires. As Bente Birkeland reports, state lawmakers are hoping to tackle the issue during the next legislative session.
Once again this summer, the Western United States saw plenty of forest fires. Some continue to burn. When the flames are extinguished, the dollar signs emerge, and states handle fire suppression costs differently. In Colorado, it depends on what kind of land is burning and how big the blaze is.
While Manitou Springs continues its cleanup process after recent flooding, the Western Slope is dealing with issues of its own. Strong winds yesterday whipped up flames on a wildfire burning south of Glenwood Springs. The Red Canyon Fire grew to 350 acres and mandatory evacuations forced 15 families from their homes. The fire is burning in rugged terrain, in a Pinyon/Juniper forest. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen was with firefighters when the blaze blew up and started creeping toward them. She filed this report.
The federal government has approved a major disaster declaration for the Royal Gorge Fire in Fremont County. The declaration means federal aid is available to deal with the effects, including unemployment benefits for Royal Gorge Bridge & Park employees and others who are out of work after this summer’s wildfire, who aren’t otherwise eligible for state jobless benefits. Aid is also available for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. Governor John Hickenlooper’s office says a similar request for the Black Forest Fire is pending.
The Obama administration launched an initiative Friday aimed at reducing the risk of wildfire to water supplies in the West. As KUNC's Grace Hood reports, Colorado will be one of six states to see pilot projects.
Flows of ash and debris into streams after a wildfire can be damaging to the local water supply. Aiming to mitigate this problem, the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior signed a memorandum of understanding Friday. USDA Chief Tom Vilsack:
Preliminary estimates show insurance companies will pay almost $300 million dollars to homeowners affected by the Black Forest Fire. About 3,600 auto and homeowner insurance claims have been filed since the June wildfire, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. But Executive Director Carole Walker expects that number will grow.
The Pipeline Fire on Fisher’s Peak started yesterday and is burning in steep, rocky terrain. Multiple units responded from in and around the Trinidad region, but officials say it’s been difficult to access the fire. The active fire has shown extreme activity on the entire perimeter of the blaze, though no evacuations have been ordered.
Though wildfires have been definitively connected to climate change, megafires in the West haven’t shifted public opinion as drastically as environmentalists might hope.
Researchers have found that repeated wildfires in the same region do tend to shift public opinion about climate change, so with back to back summers of megafires the Pikes Peak region may see greater interest in the effects of increased warming.
The devastating 2002 wildfire season generated public discussion about the need for treatments to fix our dangerously overgrown forests. A decade later, the Front Range has been hit with consecutive record-setting fire seasons, which has a lot of Colorado residents wondering why more of that treatment hasn’t happened. In this story that originally aired in April, KRCC’s Michelle Mercer looks into the status of forest treatment on the Front Range.
The Black Forest Fire destroyed over 500 homes, leaving those homeowners with a difficult decision: should they rebuild? Back in April, KRCC’s Michelle Mercer talked to some Waldo Canyon Fire victims about the tough choices they’ve made.
Since this piece aired in April, rebuilding permits have trickled in: now 198 permits have been issued, or about 57% of the Waldo Canyon Fire victims.