I don’t think anyone living in Colorado would have expected the events that happened the day before New Year 2021. No one knew the destruction that was coming to the communities on the Front Range that can’t seem to catch a break anymore. They definitely did not expect that three months later the same tragic events could happen again. But this time fire rescue teams were prepared. And as many residents of Boulder relived the trauma that they were still swimming through, we all watched the news waiting to see how many more homes would be lost and waiting for the rolling evacuation orders.
The NCAR fire was less devastating but still as important as the Marshall Fire. As residents of Colorado, we have become used to fire season being in the summer with some of the largest fires in the history of Colorado happening this past summer. According to the website of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, four out of the five largest wildfires in the history of the state have occurred in the three years between 2018 and 2020. Now it seems as though winter is just as much of a danger. Watching the news in the last few months since the Marshall Fire, it seems like any warm, windy day is a day with a new fire. Few are as catastrophic as December 30, 2021. On that day over 1,000 homes were lost with a total of over 6,000 acres burned. The NCAR fire burned around 200 acres and luckily no homes or structures. I think it’s a wake-up call that we all need to take very seriously.
Though I am overjoyed to see how much the state of Colorado has come together to help the victims of the fire, I am also a bit saddened by what actions are not being taken. At no point in the conversations about what caused the fires, or how first responders could have done more to save homes and communities, has anyone ever said, “But what about how we prevent this in the future?” Or “How did we get here?” By this, I mean no one is talking about how Colorado is sadly not the only place in the world where dry conditions are sparking fires at levels previously unseen in the last few years. In 2020, we saw Australia deal with a mega-fire that burned approximately 60 million to 84 million acres of land. Places such as Alaska have also been hit hard by fires in recent years. According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, there were a total of 389 fires in 2021. These fires burned 254,500 acres of land. To put that into perspective, the Cameron Peak fire here in Colorado burned 208,913 acres and is the current largest wildfire in the state’s history.
I put current in italics because I don’t need to be a psychic to see what the future holds for Colorado in the coming years. With hotter summers and less precipitation, it’s not hard to see what’s coming. If we as a state now, collectively, hold our breaths on windy days in the winter, what can we expect for the summer? I don’t think I need to dance around the term “global warming,” considering the information that has been put forth. And what the solution is to the current problems facing our state, our country, our world, I don’t have the answers to that. But I think that it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the literal smoke signals that mother nature is laying in our path.