John Spezia: Review candidates’ stance on forest fire prevention
October 25, 2018
Lately, it seems like fires are burning all over the West. We have had two major fires in this area, Silver Creek and the Ryan Fire, which have cost a total of $36 million, and still, the fire season is not over.
Last week, while I was descending Sweetwater Creek on the south side of the Flattops, I spotted the smoke of a smoldering brush fire that quickly turned into a brown-orange inferno as it moved through a stand of evergreens. This was after a foot of snow/rain four days before, followed by four warm and sunny days.
Combine this with our last dry, hot summer, new precipitation patterns and several decades of record high temperatures and we are left with a legacy of fall forest fires we have not seen before. What is causing this new climate pattern, which is not reflective of our normal day to day weather?
Even though the Earth has warmed up an average of about 1 degree, the temperatures in our National Forests have warmed up twice that amount, 2 degrees. According to the National Park Service, our National Parks have warmed up 1.8 degrees, and the flora and fauna are feeling the ill affects of these climate changes.
At the higher latitudes and altitudes of Alaska and Canada, the average temperatures have increased exponentially by 18 degrees. And the number and size of forest fires in those areas have increased dramatically where fires were few and far between in the past. The lichen that covers most of the tundra and boreal forest is the most flammable fuel we know, and when it dries out, it produces fires that are too large, too hot and too remote to fight.
As the Arctic ice melts, the open Arctic Ocean absorbs more heat, the Earth’s Arctic air-conditioning unit does not cool down the rest of the Earth to a sustainable and livable temperature. Some of the many consequences are the wheat field fires in eastern Washington and Oregon, a lack of snow, the Southwest’s droughts and the forest fires in Colorado.
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So, when you cast your ballot in the upcoming election, you need to carefully review the past actions and present positions of each candidate. Are they supporting actions that prevent forest fires, sustain a healthy snow pack, promote renewable energy and energy efficiency and the new energy economy that is growing in Colorado?