Images, Thoughts on Travel, Equipment and Techniques that somehow relate to Nature & Wildlife Photography.

Fear and Loathing….in the Smoke

Smoke from West Fork complex wildfire, about 90 air miles southwest of us, obscures evening sun.

East Peak, West Fork Complex, Black Forest, Bull Gulch (our “backyard”, small but….), Royal Gorge, all 2013 wildfires consuming the forests, the nesting birds, the fawns and bear cubs that can’t out run a fire being pushed by 35, 40 or even 50 mile per hour winds. Welcome to the new reality of Colorado in the late spring, early summer.  Not every year is a horror show in the drying mountains of the west, but it seems our lives are put on hold  more frequently while we watch and wait to see how the latest wave of flame and smoke will determine our future.  Sometimes the mountains in the distance are a bit hazy, sometimes the smell of smoke is what you notice first, other times a billowing cloud of smoke, Armageddon like, commands our full attention.  Back in 2002 when the Copper Gulch fire blew up we were fat, dumb and happy until a friend called and asked if a nuclear bomb had been dropped in our direction. We couldn’t see the massive cloud of smoke just to our south-east until we drove down the road a bit….I was stunned, dumbfounded by the magnitude of what I saw. It was as if there was a nuclear detonation. That’s the thing, these fires start small of course and in the course of a day or two are suddenly 2, 3, 4,000 acres or much, much more. Drought dried grass, brush and trees literally explode into a conflagration muscled along by hot winds and single digit humidity no matter the cause. We need to get our use of fossil fuels under control, and quickly, climate change is real, the fire season is now 2 months longer since the 1970s due to snow melting earlier and rains not falling. Inaction is now costing us about 1 billion dollars a year just from these huge wildfires.  And now 19 fire fighters have died in a wildfire in Arizona, it’s already been a long, hot summer.

Conifers explode as the 2011 Duckett fire, a few air miles to our south, changes direction.  The fire was running south rapidly and several small ranches had been evacuated when the wind turned and pushed it north into the national forest.

Conifers explode as the 2011 Duckett fire, a few air miles to our south, changes direction. The fire was running south rapidly and several small ranches had been evacuated when the wind turned and pushed it north into the national forest.

Helicopter hauling water into the Duckett fire.

Helicopter hauling water into the Duckett fire.

Slurry drop along south edge of Duckett fire.

Slurry drop along south edge of Duckett fire.

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4 responses

  1. I have never seen a wildfire. It must be a terible power to handle, and to see…

    July 7, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    • Bente, wildfire is a natural part of life in western north america. The past 10 years or so we have seen bigger, faster fires due to drought and a changing climate. We used to celebrate late spring, early summer as warm weather replaced winter cold, anymore I think I like the snow better!

      July 7, 2013 at 6:53 PM

  2. Those are remarkable photos. Fire is a serious force.

    July 5, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    • Lyle, thanks for the comment. We see too much of the power that wildfires are. Things are calming down a bit now, winds have abated, rain (some) has come and we can breathe again.

      July 6, 2013 at 2:40 PM

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