Colorado Sees Worst Wildfire in History

by Natasha Lasky and Miro Korenha

A wave of deadly forest fires has erupted in Colorado, despite the fact winter storms have begun hitting the state. Warming temperatures across the West Coast have lengthened fire season into November, with disastrous consequences. Three mega-fires have erupted near Denver — the largest (Cameron Peak Fire) and second-largest (East Troublesome Fire) are burning only 10 miles apart from each other, and could potentially merge. 

The fires have also spread into Rocky Mountain National Park and are threatening Estes Park, marking this the largest fire the state has fought in its history. 

 

Why This Matters: Colorado’s average temperature has increased since 1990 by 2 degrees, faster than the global average. And like much of the rest of the country, this summer Colorado saw record-breaking heat. This has dried out soil and has caused the conditions that allow wildfires to grow to record proportions.

This is part of a larger climate trend and climate change is rapidly affecting Colorado as 91% of the state is currently in severe to exceptional drought.  It’s especially dire for the Colorado River as it provides water to eighteen different states and Mexico. 

This summer Western states have suffered the worst wildfires in modern history and it’s one more indication of how desperately we must address the climate crisis.

A Wake-Up Call for Colorado? Wildfires like these will likely continue happening and Colorado’s leadership must prepare for the effects. From helping frontline communities that often do not have the resources to escape dangerous air, to more adapted forest and urban management, Colorado has its work cut out. As the Denver Post reported

  • A Denver Post examination found a $4.2 billion backlog of forestry work identified by the Colorado State Forest Service as critical to protect people and property from fires.
  • Owners of destroyed homes still typically rebuild on site, despite increased erosion and flooding. 
  • More people moving into fire-prone forests between now and 2040 likely will triple the size of a high-risk interface zone, according to a forest service report scheduled for publication next month.

Climate Planning: Colorado has already begun implementing climate policy — the state has almost finished a statewide inventory that approximates the emissions from sources of greenhouse gases across the state, which would allow the state to enforce tougher regulations. And this September, Governor Jared Polis released a climate plan that sets a goal to cut emissions below 2005 levels by 2050, and plan to meet them by shifting to zero-emission vehicles, closing coal plants, and improving the efficiency of heating and cooling buildings.

However, some green groups have criticized the plan for not being specific enough about how the policies to achieve these goals will be set into place. The Natural Resources Defense Council put forth an analysis of how Colorado can fulfill its climate goals while also protecting its most vulnerable citizens. 

 

Up Next

Governor Proposes $536 Million To Fight 2021 California Wildfire Season

Governor Proposes $536 Million To Fight 2021 California Wildfire Season

As California’s wildfire season approaches, Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing $536 million in emergency and other funding to combat and prevent fires this year. The plan invests in additional firefighters, fuel breaks around vulnerable communities, and wildfire response capacity.  

Why This Matters: California’s 2020 fire season burned a record-breaking 4.2 million acres and experts say that severe drought may make this season even more destructive.

Continue Reading 538 words
Haaland Met with State and Tribal Leaders to Talk Future of Bears Ears National Monument

Haaland Met with State and Tribal Leaders to Talk Future of Bears Ears National Monument

Days after announcing a $1.6 billion investment into national parks, reserves, and Indigenous schools, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited Bears Ears National Monument to speak to Utah state and Tribal leaders about the future of the monument.

Why This Matters: In 2017, the Trump administration reduced the Monument by nearly one million acres and opened the land up to cattle grazing and off-road vehicles.

Continue Reading 638 words
Interior Invests $1.6 Billion in Parks, Preserves, and Indigenous Schools

Interior Invests $1.6 Billion in Parks, Preserves, and Indigenous Schools

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it will use funds allocated by a conservation bill passed last year to fund 165 national park improvement projects that will create nearly 19,000 jobs.  The Biden administration has pledged to protect 30% of public lands and waters by 2030, but accomplishing that means completing deferred maintenance […]

Continue Reading 532 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.