The Cause and Effects of the Burning Colorado Wildfires
By: Evelyn Beschta
Have you heard about the numerous burning wildfires that are lighting up America?
Do you ever wonder what causes the wildfires? Why are they burning out of control? And who is most affected by these threatening wildfires?
Yes? If these questions ever popped in your head we have something in common.
My biggest question of all was why wasn’t I aware of this sooner? If it wasn’t for my curiosity, I would have never learned the cause and effects of wildfires. Or how to help support the people and animals affected by them.
What Causes Wildfires?
The world has been experiencing climate change for 94 million years. It’s been around a lot longer than we thought.
Every 365 days or so millions of acres are being consumed by fire in the United States. This results in warmer temperatures, melting snow, and an incline in droughts.
When a forest burns it releases carbon dioxide. And other global warming gases – worsening climate change.
The result is an excess of oxygen in the atmosphere which fuels forest fires. More carbon also gets stored in marine sediment. It would be better for it to release into the atmosphere, thus allowing the planet to restore itself.
Droughts and other dry conditions keep the fire danger elevated. As wildfires burn acre after acre, emissions skyrocket.
The cycles of carbon and oxygen are disrupting our atmosphere. Volcanic activity yields warmer temperatures and increased photosynthesis in our one world ocean. This makes an excess of carbon dioxide, which creates oxygen-deprived oceans. Our oceans absorb lots of the carbon dioxide we produce.
The growth of wildfires in 2020 had a massive impact on Colorado alone. The wildfires have burned 40% of the planet’s forests in tens of thousands of years. Below is the wildfire news timeline between July 31st through October 14th of 2020.
2020 Wildfire News Timeline
July 31st – The Pine Gulch fire was ignited by a glaze that grew to 30,000 acres.
August 10th – The wildfire in Glenwood Canyon started from a dragging chain. It went from the highway into dry underbrush, and then burned over 32,000 acres.
August 13th – The Cameron Peak fire was reported as the largest wildfire in state history. It burned for four months and destroyed over 208,000 acres. This included Rocky Mountain National Park.
October 14th –The East Troublesome Fire burned over 192,560 acres. In-Ground County it grew to 100,000 acres within 24 hours and killed two people.
If there is a way to limit the growth of future devastations, then wouldn’t we have done that by now? You would think, but not enough people are aware of how to support the process to make this happen.
Why Do Fires Burn Out of Control?
It starts with inefficiently managed forests. Forests have evolved historically over the western U.S.
Introducing natural fire reduces built-up underbrush from decades of population growth. To restore Colorado’s landscape to the healthiest form over 288,000 acres need to burn every year.
Low-intensity fires remove debris and fallen timber. This allows forests to maintain more potential fuel and denser growth. The result of which is bigger and more intense wildfires.
This allows forests to maintain more potential fuel and denser growth, leading to bigger and more intense wildfires.
Believe it or not, fire helps sustain a healthy ecosystem. Check out How Can Forest Fires Be Helpful For Ecosystems?
Controlled burns get rid of the fuel that’s built up from fire suppression, dead trees, and drought. Colorado has more than enough kindling to take care of through controlled means.
In Lodgepole Pine Forest there are one and half-million acres packed with dead trees. When you have a very dry year, fuel is inevitable. Controlled burning of the landscape is not always possible due to population growth. This is why effective management of our forests is so crucial.
All in all our current fire management process is not sustainable anymore.
“We are not engaged enough in managing fires in a proactive fashion. We wait until they start and then we run around trying to put them out… And that doesn’t work very well. “We know it doesn’t work.” said Mark Finney, a research forester for the U.S. Forest Service.
To reduce the chances of large-scale wildfires – whether they are natural or man-made, we need more fire on the landscape. This system means more prescribed burning.
And the majority of wildfires originate in shrubland. Forest landscapes burn with an extra intensity due to the absence of fire or a deficit of fire.
To reduce the incline of wildfires smoking the sky, we need to put in place better forest management. Taking these measures ensures a safer environment for your kids and/or future kids.
Who’s Affected by the Wildfire Evacuation?
People are being forced to prepare for evacuation and deal with the closings of highways.
It creates more challenges for those who care for animals, such as livestock and pets. Their crops are being burned to ash, and their animals are breathing in heavy doses of smoke and dying. Houses and barns also get swallowed up by the flames.
Luckily, there are many resources including The Colorado State University Extension – 244-1835. This extension helps those in need of relocation and who need help feeding their animals.
In addition, firefighters’ jobs are becoming more at risk due to many wildfires taking over. They sacrifice endless hours breathing in smoke, without sleep and away from their families. To serve and protect our communities in these difficult times requires a lot of sacrifice.
For example, it took over 1,400 firefighters and 14 helicopters to fight the Cameron Peak Fires alone.
Many of us don’t give firefighters enough credit. Most are on call, ready to dive into action at any moment. They drop everything to go save countless lives. And I don’t see firefighters get enough recognition for the wonderful work they do.
So, next time you see a hero – a firefighter – be sure to thank him or her for their service.
Proper fire management helps limit fire risks in the long-run. Taking action against climate change is one of the best tools we’ve got. If we reduce the emissions that cause global warming, we can slow the growth of wildfire.
If no action is taken, summers continue to increase temperatures. The soil gets drier, and more and more people and animals face the threat of wildfire.
Peter Brennen a science journalist stated, “If we change our actions and come up with ways of living that don’t need combustion of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide input to the atmosphere, we can mitigate the impact of climate change.”
Climate change and carbon dioxide are going to have an enormous impact for many years to come. This affects our one world ocean and how ecosystems operate. It’s up to us to prevent any further damage. We need to start taking action for our climate.
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Author Bio: Evelyn Beschta comes from a small town in Wisconsin, where she is an agricultural copywriter. Evelyn enjoys snowboarding with her friends in winter.