Jun 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm #1291462
Hi All –
I'm saddened by all the wildfires out west. It seems the entire west is on fire! Saddened at the devastation, concerned about the firefighters fighting these blazes, heartbroken to think of the human and animal losses of life. I pray for rain for the west.
Just needed to say that. Thanks for listening.
Kathy HandysideJun 28, 2012 at 3:10 am #1890736
Yes,it is heartbreaking. I have an older friend living in west Colo.Sprgs and she's been evacuated from her home, her daughter and son-in-law live up in Woodland Park and are on pre-evac just waiting..The Waldo Canyon fire was only 5% contained last night. Unfortunately as more people move closer to the interface between suburban and wild, we will likely continue to see such in times of drought. I too hope mother nature sees fit to send some substantial rain their way, not just lightning.Jun 28, 2012 at 3:57 am #1890738
Leigh – I hope your friends are safe and that they don't suffer any losses (or, at least, not too many). I've heard there are fires in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico (that might be out now) – but Colorado seems to be hit the worst.
Here in Michigan, we've been having very hot and dry weather – hotter and dryer than is normal for my area.
KathyJun 28, 2012 at 4:06 am #1890741
@sschloss1Locale: New England
A lot of places I really love in Arizona burned in the Wallow and Horseshoe 2 fires last year. And some of the nicest remaining forests on the PCT in southern California burned the fall after my thru-hike. None of those places will look anything like I remember them within my lifetime.
And the scary thing is it may get worse. Climatologists say that West is getting drier. That means more and bigger fires.Jun 28, 2012 at 5:13 am #1890746
Thanks Kathy, I'm in communication with them daily.
Yes, Scott, I know what you mean. I've wanted to do some hiking in the Gila (NM) for the past two years, but fires have ruled that out, and as you said, won't recover/be restored in my lifetime. Wildfires out west, especially the areas closest to me (CO and NM) have really added an element of danger to hiking in the summer when I have the time off to go. When we were in the South San Juan's last summer, while camped near a lake with a beautiful vista of the snow capped peaks in the distance, the next morning we awoke to the smell of fire and could no longer see the tops of the peaks. It was quite disconcerting since we weren't sure if it was just a shift in wind driving the smoke from existing fires to the south or not.Jun 28, 2012 at 6:54 am #1890766
"And some of the nicest remaining forests on the PCT in southern California burned the fall after my thru-hike. None of those places will look anything like I remember them within my lifetime."
Well, consider yourself lucky that you got to experience a lush, green forest out West. Until misguided fire suppression policies were put in place, neither the Sierra nor the Rockies were as dense OR burnt out. Rather, they were a natural mixture of old growth, new growth and burned (rejuvenated) areas.
As a SoCal native, one of the first things that springs to my mind whenever I see a plush, lush hillside is "that suckers gonna burn". If you find yourself in a green zone out West, enjoy it like a sunset – it ain't gonna last. That is, it was never meant to be that green, so if it is, nature is gonna force a reversion to the mean.Jun 28, 2012 at 6:58 am #1890768
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
Yes, the wildfires make things tough and dangerous. I went backpacking in the Gila just before Memorial Day weekend – we saw no one the entire time besides a couple horse-packers who were on their way in to evacuate some Boy Scouts. It turns out they closed the trail a day or two after we got on it. The area we were at was so beautiful I hope it wasn't damaged too badly. Light rain finally fell over portions of the fire yesterday.
Scott, I've read on Hike Arizona that last summer's fires weren't as damaging as the media would have you think. Here's an interesting picture that shows the severity of damage: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/ftp/InciWeb/AZASF/2011-05-31-00:57-wallow/picts/pict-20110628-215436-0.jpeg
As you can see, most of the area received low burn damage, with some areas not at all. Some trip reports and photos indicate the area is still hike-able.
I try to remember that wildfires are natural and necessary for forests, however. We are seeing larger forest fires than what may be normal now because of decades of intense fire control. For example, Gila National Forest's vegetative character is much different today than it was in the early 1900s. According to a 1974 report ("Evaluation of the Gila Wilderness for Re-Establishment of the Grizzly Bear"), "the grassland and pioneer vegetative component of the Gila Wilderness today is quite limited in extent over that present in the recent past." They basically say that much of what used to be grassland meadows has now been replaced by thick brush and dense forests, which is one reason why the current fire is so large and intense.
It may take a long time for nature to get back on its normal track from which we've disrupted it.Jun 28, 2012 at 7:00 am #1890769
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
I just got off the Madison river in Montana. During the 3 days I was out, a massive wildfire consumed 15,000 acres along the river near Bozeman (Bear Trap fire). Although I could see the smoke rising from the river, I wasn't prepared for the devastation I saw on the drive back. A range that had been green and beautiful just 3 days earlier now looked like an alien landscape. I accept that this is how nature renews itself, but this area will not be the same for many years. I couldn't believe how far and how fast this spread. My thoughts are with those who call this place their home.Jun 28, 2012 at 7:30 am #1890773
@paulmagsLocale: People's Republic of Boulder
Read this for an interesting historical perspective on wildfires and why (partially) we are in the situation we are in today:
http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Policy/Fire/FamousFires/1910Fires.aspxJun 28, 2012 at 8:43 am #1890792
@woodenwizardLocale: Greater Mt Tabor
The forest was saddened by us building houses first.
It is a bummer, tho…
…that "old man of the community" in Manitou having to have friends help him move his extensive art collection. It does bum me out when old folks watch the destruction of their old family estate or land.
it is saddening in a way, but when you put your house on the edge of a river…Jun 28, 2012 at 9:26 am #1890805
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Saddening, maddening, infuriating, unfortunate,etc…….
There is a lot of hot tempers and emotions going on right now in our region, political finger pointing and blame gaming, its all happening. The firefighters are the ones with the most at stake here, not homeowners- fire crews are putting their lives down on the line doing the best they can to preserve our land and protect a lifestyle for all those in the fires path. So few people care about our wild lands until it impacts their way of life, which is the case now, now people are watching, involved, and concerned. I have family friends in CO who last I heard, were likely going to lose their newly remodeled house. I feel for them deeply, but cannot help but know that they are part of the problem, or were unaware of the potential for wildfire problems living along the Front Range.
The Whitewater Baldy Complex fire burned 300,000 acres, smack dab in the heart of the wilderness area, it will take a very long time to recover. If you never had a chance to explore the Gila then perhaps maybe your children or your grandchildren will have an opportunity to see a recovering or partially recovered forest. For us living in Southern NM, the Whitewater fire and the Little Bear fire decimated the gem regions in the high country, our options for backcountry exploration will have to move a few hundred miles north while the land hopefully rebuilds.
Maybe in all this loss when the smoke and flames have settled, we will come out with a greater understanding in tending our land.Jun 28, 2012 at 9:38 am #1890809
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Second year of heat spikes in a middle of a decade + of mostly drought (a few wet years didn't make much difference) put many forests and rural communities here at risk. These forests may or may not fully recover, and I do not think we can fully comprehend the human cost in these threatened or actually burnt towns (until the insurance adjusters arrive, I guess). This is truly the worse I've seen in hiking the 4 corners for over 20 years and I was out backpacking when Durango's Missionary Ridge caught fire. Thought that was bad but it seems to have only been a beginning.. Don't forget desert and arid areas can also burn under a "red flag" warning. I was stationed at Ft. Bliss (in El Paso TX) when the neighboring Franklin mountains vegetation was incinerated about 20 years ago. The entire mountain range north of 375 was engulfed in flame.Jun 28, 2012 at 10:04 am #1890817
@lotuseaterLocale: Colorado Foothills
I read Fire Season by Philip Connors last year. It's a mix of personal memoir as a fire lookout in the Gila NF combined with analysis of the impact of Forest Service land management and fire suppression policies. Possibly not the best time for those of us who live in harm's way to start reading it, but it should serve as a solid record of why we're in this situation.Jun 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm #1890865
Daryl and DarylParticipant
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Your avatar shows what appears to be a very large zipper pull for a very short but heavy duty zipper. Could you elaborate?
DarylJun 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm #1890882
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
@ Daryl: The picture in my current avatar is actually the cranium and upper vertebrate of a large mammal I took earlier this year on a trip near the present Little Bear fire near Ruidoso, New Mexico. The rest of the bones were scattered.
Just got an update of another fire in the Whithington wilderness between Socorro NM and "Truth or Consequences" NM. Getting some rain but lots more lightning.Jun 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm #1890885
@socal-nomadLocale: North San Diego county
Living in southern California all my life wildfires are just part of the cycle of life forest and chaparral wether they were accidentally set, arson, act of god fire or forestry doing controlled burns.
I have seen most burned out areas of chaparral start to grow back in 2 to 5 years and forrest about 8 to 20 years.
Part of the reason were in this mess is the sierra club and environmentalist will not allow controlled burns to take place in the low fire condition. The native americans use to do controlled burns centuries ago because they knew it was part of the cycle of life in the land.
Also people who live high wild fire areas are not taking precautions like clearing brush and trees a 100 foot around their house. Having no decorative shrubs around or against the house to catch on fire. Get slate,metal or asphalt shingles roof, fire proof the eves of the house. And have a emergency sprinkler system they can set to wet down the house and roof down. If they own a pool get a gas powered pump to pump the water out of the pool wet the house down. They may survive the fire with no or little damage.
TerryJun 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm #1890887
I love hiking through burn areas, so many beautiful flowers, gnarled burnt trunks, less bugs, different habitat. Everything is a gift.Jun 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm #1890914
"Part of the reason were in this mess is the sierra club and environmentalist will not allow controlled burns to take place in the low fire condition."
That's so wrong on so many levels it's almost ludicrous. There are many people who don't want fires, controlled or otherwise on National Parks, National Forests, BLM lands, etc. Ranchers and townsfolk in areas near fire frequently demand fire suppression even in Wilderness areas where fires are generally allowed to burn out naturally.
We're all guilty of the desire to preserve nature in a snapshot. Never changing and always constant. But nature doesn't really care what we want. We can and have suppressed fires for years. In the long run it'll cause a lot of grief. Large swaths of Montana mountains are standing dead timber, just waiting for the right conditions to be set ablaze.
Much of the west has decades accumulation of unburnt fuel. Part of this has come from active fire suppression. Some from a number of years of unseasonably wet periods that generated lots of growth. And a large amount from bug killed trees. These trees have become highly stressed by changes in their normal environment. This stress prevents them from warding off normal pest. The result is miles of standing dead timber.
Whether you attribute the problem to global climate change or not. There is still a massive problem.
The fires you're seeing today are probably small in comparison to what will be seen over the next decade. Under the right conditions, the forest can regenerate and pretty quickly. However, if the climate is significantly altered, it remains to be seen what will become of the western landscape.
(BS Forestry OSU '81)Jun 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm #1890949
"Part of the reason were in this mess is the sierra club … will not allow controlled burns to take place in the low fire condition."
Really? Got a citation or reference?
Sierra Magazine, Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director, 2002:
"Let’s set the record straight: The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have for years advocated protecting old growth and other large, fire-resistant trees while allowing low-intensity fires to burn, supplementing them when necessary with intentional, controlled burns." SourceJun 28, 2012 at 6:34 pm #1890970
It's harshin' my mellow big time.Jun 29, 2012 at 12:39 am #1891019
I read that there are investigations starting to determine if some of the fires were started by arsonists. It's heartbreaking enough when these fires are caused by lightning, but the thought of some being deliberately set by arsonists is just horrifying.
KathyJun 29, 2012 at 5:39 am #1891029
Yes, and it's not the first time arson has reared it's head in the midst of lightning caused wildfires….not sure why, maybe they just "get the bug" seeing all the fires, or maybe they think it's less likely they'll get caught….terribly sad either way, especially when loss of life is the end result. Not to mention putting firefighters at unnecessary risk. I also know that we all pay for it in the end….my insurance premium jumped this year after all the fires we had in TX last summer.Jun 29, 2012 at 9:24 am #1891072
"We're all guilty of the desire to preserve nature in a snapshot. Never changing and always constant. But nature doesn't really care what we want. We can and have suppressed fires for years. In the long run it'll cause a lot of grief."
Mean reversion is a beotch. The desire to keep it green by putting crews on it when it's endangered just means it's gonna get burned out to the core when it does go up.
What doesn't bend eventually breaks. Instead of a mixed healthy forest, we have forests on steroids (lush & green) that suffer catastrophic losses when the jig is up.Jun 29, 2012 at 11:19 am #1891092
@cohikerLocale: San Isabel NF
Tuesday afternoon of the Waldo Canyon Fire west of Colorado Springs. Just a few hours before 350 homes were burnt to the ground.
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