Fear and Loathing….in the Smoke
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.