tagged w/ Wildfires
Winds that weather experts said normally arrive in force in the late fall fueled flames in the Springs fire that quickly chewed through 6,500 of acres of dry brush.
William Patzert, a climatologist for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada, said that Southern California’s weather has been out-of-whack, with Santa Ana winds descending on Southern California much earlier than they usually do and low moisture levels.
“It was promising up to December and then all of sudden Mother Nature turned off the spigot,” he said. “It’s remarkable to get Santa Anas in May.… Every way you look at it, it’s been remarkable, unusual and incendiary.”
Southern California, like much of the state, has experienced record levels of dry conditions since the nominal “rain year” began last July. With only about five inches of rain since that time, Los Angeles is headed toward its fourth-driest year since 1877. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which protects about a third of the state, said that it has dealt with more than 150 blazes this year compared to 2012.
Patzert said Saturday and Sunday should see some cooling, with the possibility of drizzle on the tail end of the weekend. But there’s no logical reason to expect Southern California to get significant rain until late in the year. Since the New Year, downtown L.A. has experienced less than two inches of rain through months that are almost always the year’s wettest.
Average for this point in the rain year is more than 11 inches of rainfall.
“We are at 17%. That is exceptional,” he said. "Our hope for a drought buster was dashed and an early fire season was guaranteed."
More at the link
World Continues To Warm In 2012 in spite of La Nina.Winds that weather experts said normally arrive in force in the late fall fueled... more
Rescue teams search for more than 100 missing people after bushfires sweep through Australian island state of Tasmania.
Australian police and defence forces have been searching for scores of people who are missing after bushfires tore through the Australian island state of Tasmania, where more than 40 fires still raged on Sunday.
Scott Tilyard, Tasmania's acting police commissioner, said on Sunday that about 100 people were yet to be accounted for after fast-moving fires swept through the south of the state.
"That's not to say that those people necessarily have come to any harm, but obviously we can't totally eliminate that until we've had confirmed contact with those individuals," said Tilyard.
More at linkRescue teams search for more than 100 missing people after bushfires sweep through... more
Australian authorities say thousands of people have fled wildfires raging through southern Australia, with one blaze destroying dozens of homes in the southern island state of Tasmania.
The fires flared on Friday amid a record summer heat wave that pushed temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in Tasmania, which is normally known for its cooler climate.
Tasmania police estimate that as of late Saturday, at least 70 percent of the buildings in and around the small community of Dunalley, about 55 kilometers east of the state capital, Hobart, had been destroyed.
VOA News | January 05, 2013
Video at linkAustralian authorities say thousands of people have fled wildfires raging through... more
11 billion dollar disasters just coming under the 14 billion dollar disasters of 2011. Yet this was not important enough to be mentioned at the presidential debates in 2012, nor to be addressed by this Congress or the president of this country beyond more lipservice. Nor was it adequately addressed in climate talks in Doha this past month. A crisis already threatening our survival killing and displacing people globally that gets less coverage than Kim Kardashian. We can't have another year without action.
From Weather Underground: Hour-by-hour animation of infrared satellite images for 2012. The loop goes in slow-motion to feature such events as Hurricane Sandy, the June Derecho, Summer in March, and other top weather events of 2012. The date stamp is at lower left; you will want to make the animation full screen to see the date. Special thanks to wunderground’s Deb Mitchell for putting this together!11 billion dollar disasters just coming under the 14 billion dollar disasters of 2011.... more
We can debate the reasons for it, but there is no question that over the last 40 years the average size of wildfires has increased. The data we collected from the National Interagency Fire Center when grouped by decade shows that the average size of fires between 1970 and 2009 has more than quadrupled.
Climate Central has also noticed this and issued a report about the change in fire activity over the last 42 years. Here are some highlights:
- The National Research Council reports that for every degree Celsius (1.8°F) of temperature increase, the size of the area burned in the Western U.S. could quadruple.
- For the last decade, compared to the 1970s, there were 7 times more fires greater than 10,000 acres and nearly 5 times more fires larger than 25,000 acres each year.
- Since the 1970s the average number of fires over 1,000 acres each year has nearly quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho, and has doubled in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
- The burn season is two and a half months longer than 40 years ago.
- Rising spring and summer temperatures across the West appear to be correlated to the increasing size and numbers of wildfires. Spring and summer temperatures have increased more rapidly across this region than the rest of the country, in recent decades. Since 1970, years with above-average spring and summer temperatures were typically years with the biggest wildfires.
In spite of this clear trend of increasing wildfires, Congress and the Administration have been reducing the budgets of the federal land management agencies, and have cut the number of large air tankers on exclusive use contracts by 80 percent since 2002, from 44 to 9. However, seven more air tankers may be added over the next year, bringing the total to 16. William Scott, a fire aviation expert who also has experience in the National Security Agency, thinks that terrorists could, and perhaps already are waging economic war inside the United State by starting wildfires which can cost the government and residents billions of dollars.We can debate the reasons for it, but there is no question that over the last 40 years... more
Large, wind-driven wildfires whipped across Nebraska and into South Dakota as Isaac's tropical rains swung east of the drought-parched hinterlands.
Nebraska's sparsely populated northwest corner, abutting South Dakota, is the latest hot spot in a long firefighting season for the dry American West.
On Friday, fire officials ordered residents along Highway 385 to evacuate as soon as possible.
“Fire crews are making every effort to stop the fire and protect property in the fire area, but Mother Nature is not cooperating,” officials said in a statement. “If the fire were to jump Highway 385, residents will not have time to collect their personal belongings.”
Isaac did provide a bit of help over the weekend. The disintegrating storm system brought lower overnight temperatures to about 1,000 personnel fighting the fires before triple-digit heat returned on Sunday.
"From midnight on, the fire just laid down," Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Kearns of Rushville, Neb., said in a statement. "The wind dropped, the humidity rose and the fuel load somewhat diminished. We got a real break."
But winds picked up again Sunday, fanning the flames. Officials told the Associated Press that the area's multiple blazes had tripled in size, consuming about 285 square miles -- more than 182,000 acres.
Officials are trying to protect Chadron, Neb., a town of 5,851 near the South Dakota border, against the Region 23 complex fire, which is 47% contained and churning through more than 30,000 acres of forests and canyons.
Evacuation orders are expected to remain in place throughout afflicted areas at least through Monday, according to fire officials’ latest update.
The 96,000-acre Wellnitz fire, 12 miles north of Rushville, has moved into the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. With the help of strong winds, the flames were consuming areas favored by deer and turkey hunters. Crews from more than 35 fire departments had joined that fight.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman toured some of the fire damage on Sunday and told the Associated Press he expected the firefighting to last another four to six weeks.
Both fires are thought to have been started by lightning in the middle of last week.
More at the linkLarge, wind-driven wildfires whipped across Nebraska and into South Dakota as... more
Firefighters late Sunday were continuing to battle a blaze in the Angeles National Forest that had scorched more than 3,600 acres and forced the evacuation of campgrounds known to draw up to 12,000 visitors on Labor Day weekend.
As of late Sunday, there were no reports of injuries or property damage caused by the fire, which started about 2:15 p.m. in the San Gabriel mountains north of Azusa.
The fire was pushing north on steep terrain toward the Sheep Mountain Wilderness area and was about 5% contained, said John Wagner, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. About 300 firefighters were battling the blaze with the help of air tankers and helicopters dropping water and fire retardant from above.
PHOTOS: Crews battle Angeles National Forest fire
The fire began about 3 1/2 miles east of California 39, midway between Camp Williams Resort and Burro Canyon Shooting Park, Wagner said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation. Soon after it started, a large plume of smoke could be seen rising in an otherwise blue sky covering the Los Angeles Basin.
More at the linkFirefighters late Sunday were continuing to battle a blaze in the Angeles National... more
French authorities are fighting wildfires, keeping an eye on isolated elderly populations and advising people to drink fluids as temperatures soar in the country.
Heat wave warnings were issued for a swath of central and southern France, from Burgundy to the Pyrenees. Temperatures are expected to reach up to 40 C (104 F) in some areas.
The government is determined to avoid a repeat of the summer of 2003, when about 15,000 people died during a heat wave.
Wildfires raged around Lacanau in the southwest on Thursday. Patrick Stefanini, prefect for the Aquitaine region, said in remarks shown on French television that they were brought under control Friday morning.French authorities are fighting wildfires, keeping an eye on isolated elderly... more
On Sunday further evacuations in Oklahoma were necessary, as wildfires continue to grow and progress across the state. In one town nearly five dozen homes and buildings were destroyed.
By Tim Talley, Associated Press / August 5, 2012
Several wildfires raging around the parched Oklahoma landscape prompted more evacuations on Sunday as emergency workers sought to shelter those forced out by flames that destroyed dozens of homes and threatened others in the drought-stricken region.
One roaring fire near Luther, about 25 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, destroyed nearly five dozen homes and other buildings before firefighters gained a measure of control Saturday. Authorities said several state roads remained closed early Sunday because of drifting smoke or nearby fires.
Mike Donegan, a communications supervisor with the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol in the scorched region, said evacuations continued overnight. He had no immediate details on the numbers forced from their homes but said officers went door to door in some communities, getting people to leave.
He said he saw thick smoke from a distance of about 50 miles from one of the fires as he drove into work.
"When I came in today ... we got ash falling even where I live. I thought it was raining at first. The smoke was thick," Donegan told The Associated Press by phone.
The Luther fire was one of at least 10 burning Saturday in Oklahoma, where a severe drought has settled on the countryside in a summer in which temperatures have topped 110 degrees in spots.
The fires include a large one in Creek County, in northeastern Oklahoma, that officials said had claimed about 78 square miles, and another about 35 miles to the west in Payne County.
Emergency management officials ordered residents of Mannford, in Creek County; Glencoe, in Payne County; Drumright, in Lincoln County; Oak Grove, in Pawnee County; and Quinton, in Pittsburg County, to leave their homes, according to Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain.
Cain said Saturday that no serious injuries had been reported.
Authorities suspect the fire near Luther may have been intentionally set, while the cause of the others was undetermined. The Oklahoma County sheriff's department said it was looking for someone in a black pickup truck seen throwing newspapers out a window after setting them ablaze.
Department spokeswoman Mary Myers said there were "no arrests, no suspects" but deputies were "working around the clock" to find anyone responsible.
Nigel Holderby, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, inspected one shelter set up in Cushing, northeast of Oklahoma City. She reported about 50 people sought refuge there overnight.
"We do have several shelter operations in full swing," she said early Sunday. "We are providing food and water and we are also making sure the firefighters are hydrated and feeding them."
Though the fires are scattered across the region, she said a largely volunteer effort has been able to respond and several shelters have been set up.
Gov. Mary Fallin toured Luther on Saturday, hugging residents whose homes and belongings were destroyed by the fire that swept through treetops on 24 mph winds.
"It's heartbreaking to see families that have lost so much," Fallin said after talking with some who were milling around the still-smoking debris that had been their homes. "I gave them a hug, told them I was sorry."
The fire burned just over 4 square miles, including an area near the Turner Turnpike, which carries Interstate 44 between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The superhighway was briefly closed Friday.
In Creek County, county Commissioner Newt Stephens asked residents to be patient and to stay away from the flames in the northern part of the county.
On Saturday, those able to return their homes found charred timbers poking from the debris and the burned out shells of refrigerators, washers and dryers.
"It makes me feel sad," said Victoria Landavazo, clutching a young child in her arms. "It's all gone. All of our family pictures, everything."
Tracy Streeper was working in Oklahoma City, about 40 miles southwest, when she learned that the flames were approaching her home. Caught in traffic, it took her a long time to return home.
She grabbed a few clothes, medicine and her three dogs and left quickly.
"Your adrenaline is running. You're pumped up," Streeper said. "You could just see a wall of flames coming this way. Everything was on fire."On Sunday further evacuations in Oklahoma were necessary, as wildfires continue to... more
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - Firefighters in three Nebraska counties battled expanding wildfires on Wednesday and an Arkansas town of 1,300 people was evacuated because of an approaching fire, as the central part of the United States suffered through another day of stifling heat.
Authorities evacuated the entire town of Ola, Arkansas, population 1,300 people, on Wednesday afternoon because of an encroaching wildfire. The town, 74 miles west of Little Rock, was especially vulnerable because a warehouse in which fireworks were stored is feared to be in the path of the flames.
The fire jumped a highway and also forced the evacuation of a rural area near Ola, authorities said. There have so far been no injuries or deaths from the Arkansas blaze so far.
While the Arkansas wildfire itself is small, burning only about 100 acres so far, a dispatcher for the Yell County Office of Emergency Management said only about 50 percent of the fire had been contained.
Much larger fires were raging in Nebraska, where some 72,400 acres had been consumed in the drought-stricken north central region of the state by Wednesday, authorities said.
Weeks of 100-plus Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) temperatures have destroyed many dryland crops across Nebraska, leaving areas more susceptible to wildfires and making conditions for firefighters nearly unbearable.
Crops on irrigated land in the state still show some promise, but the National Weather Service predicts little chance of significant rain in the near future.
Lightning strikes apparently sparked wildfires in the scenic Niobrara River Valley on Friday. Firefighters were just beginning to make progress on those blazes on Wednesday. They were aided by air drops from several helicopters.
A portion of the Niobrara River was declared off limits for public use and a part of Nebraska Highway 12 was closed earlier, but reopened on Wednesday afternoon.
Governor Dave Heineman met on Tuesday with federal, state and local workers responding to fires in Brown, Keya Paha and Cherry Counties. He had issued an emergency declaration statewide at the start of July for drought and fires.
Unlike the Arkansas fire and those that struck Colorado earlier in the summer, forcing an exodus from several communities including Colorado Springs, the Nebraska wildfires have so far been limited to sparsely populated areas.
The governor's office said 10 structures and some associated outbuildings had been destroyed and about 80 were threatened. Several Nebraska state agencies were responding to the blazes.
The three wildfires burning in the vicinity of the town of Ainsworth had consumed just over 72,400 acres as of Wednesday, according to the federal fire incident command center. The biggest, called the Fairfield Creek Fire, was 66,745 acres and straddles a river.
"Over the last two days, temperatures above 100 degrees and low humidity with Red Flag Warnings have created extreme fire behavior and difficult conditions for fire fighters," according to the fire incident command center.
The Ainsworth area Chamber of Commerce pleaded for help on Wednesday, citing the loss of grazing land for cattle and the loss of structures. Donations will be used to buy feed and hay for cattle, fencing supplies and other ranching needs, it said on its website.LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - Firefighters in three Nebraska counties battled... more
“The consequences are here, now, just as climate scientists predicted. If we fail to take action, many scientists predict ruin for large parts of this country – ruin for large parts of your districts – ruin that lasts 50 generations.”
My Testimony for House Hearing Today on Bark Beetles, Droughts and Wildfires
Oral Testimony of Joseph J. Romm
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to testify.
Four score and seven years ago our grandfathers and grandmothers were enjoying life in the roaring 20s.
Now imagine you are in Congress back then and imagine that the nation’s leading scientists are warning that human activity – years of bad land management practices – has left our topsoil vulnerable to the forces of the wind. And that the next time a major drought hits, much of our farmland will turn to dust. Dust in the wind.
YOU WOULD TAKE ACTION.
Over the past two decades, the nation’s leading scientists have issued stronger and stronger warnings that human activity – burning fossil fuels and deforestation – will lead to longer and stronger droughts that dry out topsoil and timber, creating the conditions ripe for multiple, multi-decade Dust Bowls and wildfires.
In fact, we’re already topping Dust Bowl temperatures in many places – and the Earth has warmed only about 1 degree Fahrenheit since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Yet we are poised to warm some 10 degree Fahrenheit this century if we stay on our current path of unrestricted carbon pollution emissions.
I repeat, several studies now project the world may warm 10 degree Fahrenheit this century if we don’t act. And that is the average warming of the globe. Much of our country would see far higher temperatures. The recent heat wave would be considered a pleasantly, cool summer.
Another study looked at mid-century warming of just 2 degrees Fahrenheit. It found that wildfire damage in many of your home states — Utah, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota, Nevada and Washington – would double, triple, even quadruple from current levels.
Imagine how big the government would have to be to deal with rampant wildfires and with a Dust Bowl choking the bread basket of the world. A lot bigger government than today, for sure.
So of course this great deliberative body is debating various bills to avoid this catastrophe by slashing carbon pollution.
Except it isn’t. We are here discussing bills aimed at “fuels treatment” – a euphemism for cutting down trees and using controlled burns.
Ignoring carbon pollution and focusing instead on fuels treatment to address the epidemic of bark beetles, the epidemic of drought, the epidemic of wildfires is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Or, more precisely, it is like burning some of the deck chairs and removing some of the umbrellas on the Titanic. Same outcome, more time wasted.
As I explained in the journal Nature last year, what we are discussing here today is the single most important question facing the nation: Can we prevent the extreme drought and wildfires ravaging the country today from becoming the new normal?
But the real question — and I am addressing myself to the members of the majority now – is how you want to be remembered. Do you want to be remembered as a Herbert Hoover, who sat by and did nothing in the face of obvious calamity, or as Abraham Lincoln, who took every measure to save the Union?
Lincoln said at Gettysburg “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” That of course wasn’t true. But after testifying to Congress nearly a dozen times since 1995, I am quite convinced that nobody remembers what we say here – and in the case of these bills, everyone will forget what you did here.
Are you Nevil Chamberlain — Or will you be Winston Churchill, who worked tirelessly to warn and prepare Britain for what was coming and told the House of Commons in 1936 “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”
The consequences are here, now, just as climate scientists predicted.
If we fail to take action, many scientists predict ruin for large parts of this country – ruin for large parts of your districts – ruin that lasts 50 generations. Americans have fought for generations to defend government of the people, by the people, for the people. In the hour of crisis, we need that government to do its job. Now is that hour.
Thank you“The consequences are here, now, just as climate scientists predicted. If we... more
The vicious 2012 wildfire season now unfolding in the interior West is hardly a surprise. Much of the region has been in a drought for more than a decade. This winter’s snowpack was sparse, particularly in Colorado, and it melted and ran off early.
Temperatures have been high, and humidity has been low—making fuels from grasses to trees very dry and flammable.
All of that means conditions ripe for fires, which have come with a vengeance. New Mexico has had its biggest fire ever, and Colorado has seen the most destructive fires in its history, with the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs and the High Park Fire near Fort Collins destroying more than 600 homes combined. Even as firefighters have brought the big Colorado fires near containment, other large blazes have broken out in Wyoming, Utah, and Montana.
Yes, it’s looking like a big fire year. And yes, this is part of the new normal. It’s pretty much exactly what climate experts have been predicting and what the data have been telegraphing for some time. While there are various proposals on the table to deal with increasingly destructive wildfires, they are likely to continue and become worse unless we tackle climate change.
More severe wildfires, right on schedule
Numerous studies in recent years have predicted that higher temperatures and drought conditions brought on by climate change will accelerate wildland fire activity in the West.
In 2004 U.S. Forest Service researchers studying past fires in the West constructed a model that predicted as much as a fivefold increase in burned areas by the end of the century.
Two years later a Scripps Institute of Oceanography study looked at the relatively recent spike in wildfire activity and determined it was due to changes in climate rather than forest management practices:
Robust statistical associations between wildfire and hydroclimate in western forests indicate that increased wildfire activity over recent decades reflects sub-regional responses to changes in climate. Historical wildfire observations exhibit an abrupt transition in the mid-1980s from a regime of infrequent large wildfires of short (average of 1 week) duration to one with much more frequent and longer burning (5 weeks) fires.
This transition was marked by a shift toward unusually warm springs, longer summer dry seasons, drier vegetation (which provoked more and longer burning large wildfires), and longer fire seasons. Reduced winter precipitation and an early spring snowmelt played a role in this shift.
Three years ago, in a thorough report on the impacts of climate change across the country, the U.S. Global Change Research Program said that earlier melting of snow and drier soils and plants had already increased fire activity in the West, and that the situation would grow worse:
Wildfires in the United States are already increasing due to warming. In the West, there has been a nearly fourfold increase in large wildfires in recent decades, with greater fire frequency, longer fire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. This increase is strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt, which have caused drying of soils and vegetation.
It’s impossible to link any one particular fire or weather event to climate change. In the case of fires in the West, there are other factors as well: more people living in fire-prone areas in and near forests and unnaturally crowded forests brought on in large part by decades of misguided efforts to battle and suppress nearly all fires.
But federal scientists and officials whose responsibilities include management of the vast national forest system in the West are increasingly saying flat out that there is an undeniable link between wildfires and climate change.
The Agriculture Department official who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, Under Secretary Harris Sherman, noted recently that 10 states have had record fires in the past decade. “The climate is changing,” Sherman told The Washington Post, “and these fires are a very strong indicator of that.”
“There’s enough data that show fires are very clearly linked to warming,” U.S. Geological Society Research Ecologist Craig Allen recently told a symposium sponsored by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. “Fire season’s about two months longer than it used to be.”
But the longer season is just the beginning. Data compiled by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, show that the fires are becoming more destructive—the amount of acreage burned has skyrocketed over the past few decades:
*During the four decades of the 1960s through the 1990s, the annual acreage burned by wildfire averaged 2,879,054 acres. Between 2000 and 2009 the average year saw 6,941,952 acres burn.
*Between 1960 and 1995 there were just five years where the acreage burned exceeded 5 million. Between 1996 and 2011, 11 of the 16 years exceeded 5 million acres burned, including 8 of the past 10 years.
To date in 2012 fires have burned about 2.4 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. And the outlook for the rest of the summer and early fall is not rosy, the center reports. Much of the West—from northern Arizona and northern New Mexico to southern Montana, across Nevada, and into parts of California—will have above-normal fire potential through the remainder of July. From August to October large swaths of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and California will have above-average fire potential due to drought, fuel conditions, and El Niño, which causes sea temperatures to rise.
More at linkThe vicious 2012 wildfire season now unfolding in the interior West is hardly a... more
"We have never seen one like this before… a firestorm of epic proportions."
Some of the country's best firefighters matched wits Wednesday with a fiendish Colorado wildfire that has scorched structures and sent tens of thousands fleeing from Colorado Springs and other communities.
As predicted, erratic winds kicked up again in the afternoon, increasing the chance of embers jumping fire lines and creating more havoc, officials said.
"We are learning as we fight this fire some of its tricks," said incident commander Rich Harvey. "And one of its tricks is to run down these hills that way. You can fool us once, maybe, but not twice."
Officials said they had not completed an inventory of homes and other structures lost or damaged Tuesday by the Waldo Canyon Fire, which was only 5% contained.
They were making plans to schedule a meeting with affected residents.
"It really is a loss, and there is a grieving process that has to take place," said Steve Cox with the Colorado Springs mayor's executive team.
The FBI's Denver office, meanwhile, said it was working with other agencies to determine whether any of a dozen wildfires across the state resulted from criminal activity.
Nearly 1,000 firefighters tried to corral the 15,517-acre blaze that moved into Colorado Springs.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told CNN's "John King USA" that the number of evacuations grew Wednesday to 36,000.
"We're still fighting with everything we've got," he said.
Harvey said progress had been made in some portions of the Waldo Canyon Fire, and firefighters were taking an aggressive stance against hot spots.
"It's been house to house, door to door, street to street, hill to hill activity," he said of one location.
Higher humidity and cloud cover Wednesday night might aid firefighting efforts, but there was no guarantee conditions would not be similar to Tuesday's conflagration, Harvey told reporters.
Some rain did fall Wednesday on a separate fire burning near Boulder, Colorado, according to the National Weather Service.
President Barack Obama will travel to the Colorado Springs area Friday to survey the damage and thank responders battling the blaze, the White House said.
The Waldo Canyon Fire captured attention because of its proximity to landmarks such as Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy, and also to Colorado Springs, a city of about 400,000, the state's second largest.
"We have rehearsed and practiced disasters," said Dave Rose, public information officer for El Paso County, which includes Colorado Springs. "We have never seen one like this before."
Winds gusting to 65 mph through mountain canyons blew the wildfire through containment lines into northwest Colorado Springs on Tuesday afternoon. It roared downhill, burning to the ground the Flying W Ranch, a popular Western-style tourist destination.
CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen likened conditions to a double-edged sword. While temperatures were down a bit Wednesday, high-based thunderstorms will be fed by rising air, wind and low humidity, he said.
Such storms produce lightning and rain, but dry air will suck up most of the precipitation before it hits the ground. Lightning can reach the parched soil and possibly ignite additional fires, according to Hennen.
Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, on Tuesday described the Waldo Canyon Fire as a "firestorm of epic proportions."
Continued at link"We have never seen one like this before… a firestorm of epic... more
At the risk of sounding like we're saying I told you so, this was predicted back in March. Here's a quick primer on why and what the implications are.At the risk of sounding like we're saying I told you so, this was predicted back... more
The Dump fire in Utah, touched off by ricocheting bullets sparking dry cheatgrass, became the 20th wildfire this year caused by target shooters. Many states, including Utah, are prevented from imposing emergency gun controls.
By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / June 23, 2012
Some of the wildfires scorching the West this year were sparked by unusual culprits: Gun owners. Or, more specifically, gun shooters.
As with the Dump fire in Utah, which flared hard enough on Friday to force the evacuation of 1,500 homes and 9,000 people, nearly two dozen conflagrations, officials say, have started accidentally by careless target shooters whose bullet sparks touch off dried-up pinon and wild grasses.
“Now is not a good time to take your gun outside and start shooting in cheat grass that’s tinder dry,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday.
While authorities can ban certain fire-related activities when fire risks are high, that’s not true with guns, the carrying and use of which are staunchly protected by state and federal law, including several recent Supreme Court decisions.
In Utah, for example, a state law prohibits the state from enacting emergency bans on guns, putting Gov. Herbert in a position of instead asking county governments to issue emergency rules for outdoor gun use as wildfire conditions prevail across the West.
In North Carolina, gun rights activists have successfully fought legal battles to make sure governors can’t ban guns during emergencies.
Moves to protect gun owners from emergency gun bans is an emerging front in the national debate over gun rights.
In March, a committee in the Colorado legislature killed a proposed bill that would have restricted the state from banning citizen-carry of guns during an emergency. “Common sense dictates that in an emergency situation… guns only make things worse,” a witness from the League of Women Voters told Colorado legislators at a hearing.
Recent Supreme Court decisions affirming the right of Americans to arm themselves for protection have played a major role in the changing legal dynamic around the citizenry’s ability to access their guns during emergencies.
The Supreme Court decisions have flipped “the burden onto the government and legislatures to show why they need to restrict what the court has already said is an individual right,” John Velleco, a spokesman for Gun Owners of American, told the World Net Daily news site.
Authorities now say 20 of Utah’s wildfires this year were started by target shooters, compared to 24 in total last year – with three months left in the western wildfire season. The Dump fire near Saratoga Springs, Utah, started near a landfill when the spark from a bullet hitting a rock set off a patch of grass, which then quickly spread, fueled by dry conditions and gale-force winds.
Colorado officials are also trying to figure out if the 1,200 acre Lake George wildfire was sparked by a ricocheting bullet.
Although this has been a fairly standard year for wildfires following the massive Texas wildfires in 2011, hundreds of fires have burned and dozens continue to burn in places like Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Hawaii, and New Mexico, where the state’s largest wildfire ever is still smoldering through the Gila National Forest. The Fort Collins fire in Colorado has destroyed nearly 200 homes and caused one death.
Humans, whether accidentally or on purpose, start six times as many fires as lightning in the US every year. Activities such as barbecuing and camping-related fires are often cited as causes of wildfires, while arson or careless disposal of cigarettes also remain problems. Authorities regularly target such activities under emergency wildfire declarations.
When it comes to shooting guns on the tinder-dry western plateaus, though, even local authorities so far have refrained from trying to impose emergency bans on shooting, instead urging gun owners to voluntarily refrain from loading up and heading out to the range.
“Citizens do not surrender their civil rights just because of a natural or man-made disaster,” Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in support of a lawsuit in North Carolina filed by gun owners after a 2010 snow storm put a gun ban into effect.The Dump fire in Utah, touched off by ricocheting bullets sparking dry cheatgrass,... more
Western wildfires are dominating headlines in June – but the media coverage focuses only on effects while ignoring a major cause. We hear about an increase in the number and intensity of wildfires. And separately, we hear about ongoing global warming, like how May was the 2nd-hottest on record globallybehind only May 2010. Why aren’t those dots being connected?
There’s compelling evidence that talking about western wildfires without mentioning climate change is like talking about lung cancer without mentioning cigarettes. I want to walk you through what’s happening out west right now, what the latest science tells us about why it’s happening, how it’s affecting people and wildlife in the region, and what we can do about it.
The Latest Major Fires
The consequences of carbon pollution are immediately apparent to residents of Colorado this week. More than 52,000 acres of forest have burned since lightning started the High Park Fire on June 9. Smoke has been wafting over Fort Collins, as stands of pines have been going up in dramatic blazes. The fire is already the second largest in the state’s history, exceeded only by the 2002 Hayman Fire. Of course, the High Park Fire is only 15% contained, so it may well take the leader spot in the days to come.
In the meantime, New Mexico is in the midst of fighting the largest wildfire in its history. The Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire has already burned nearly 300,000 acres, mostly in the Gila National Forest. This fire comes on the heels of the Las Conchas Fire last summer, which ranked as the largest New Mexico wildfire at the time. What’s worse, heavy rainstorms after the fire was extinguished led to major flooding and erosion. Sediment and ash were washed downstream into the Rio Grande, affecting drinking water for Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico.
Climate change is literally fueling these and other major fires in western states. In fact, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas have all had fires since last year that ranked as one of the two largest in their histories (see table). The frequency and extent of fires in recent decades is unlikely to happen under natural conditions. With one catastrophic fire after another, it is clear that something quite different is happening to our forests.
More at the linkWestern wildfires are dominating headlines in June – but the media coverage... more
In other words, we’re getting warmer. Which is good for pine beetles. Which turns forests into kindling. Especially during drought cycles.In other words, we’re getting warmer. Which is good for pine beetles. Which... more
Trees provide a service to the life of all species on Earth. They are considered the lungs of our planet, and to some scientists now its heart as well. By continuing the rapacious rate of deforestation we are now sustaining globally we are contributing not only to the destruction of the natural beauty of our only home, but the exacerbation of CO2 levels that are contributing to the following effects of climate change that can be brought down to an acceptable level through the proper remediation process of providing carbon sinks:
1. Glacier melt causing floods, mudslides, and what is now considered a dangerous effect on water supplies for billions of people who depend on those glaciers for sustenance. Also, destruction of the Arctic ice caps at a rate three times faster than scientifically predicted by the IPCC which act as the mirror and climate balance of our planet. Current CO 2 levels have now been read at 400 PPM. Without this mirror to reflect the rays of the sun we are risking passing what scientists call a "tipping point" of runaway climate change which will have catastrophic effects on this planet and our relationship to it.
2. Sea level rise due to melting ice caps and oversaturation of CO2 in our oceans. Forty eight islands have already seen the effects of sea level rise regarding destroying their homes, their traditions, and their ability to live. Many of these low lying islands are located in the Pacific and are only the first wave of islands and states to feel these effects. Scientists predict that within fifty years the Northeast coast of the United States may also be feeling these same effects due to sea level rise and some states are already seeing this happening. If we do not curtail the rate of emissions of CO2 in our atmosphere to an acceptable level (350 PPM) we risk putting millions of people in danger of experiencing the same fate. Hundreds of millions of climate refugees would be catastrophic and cause the breakdown of society as we know it.
3. Wildfires due not only in part to normal conditions we see in certain areas yearly, but now more pervasive and destructive wildfires brought on by excessive drought. Scientists now predict that wildfires will become more intense and destructive as the world warms, which will then contribute to the greenhouse gases and lack of carbon sinks that precipitate climate change causing a positive feedback loop.
These factors along with other factors such as species invasion, species extinction, change in rainfall patterns which are affecting agriculture and food production/prices and evaporation of soil moisture and lower water tables in many rivers around the world must now lead us to formulating solutions that are timely, simple, economically viable and that can improve the climate balance of our planet as well as provide much needed nutrients for our soil, water, food, sustenance, shelter, and a way to fight deforestation.
While governments of the world continue to argue and debate over the best course of action to take to mitigate and adapt to climate change that will best profit them, it is the people of America and globally who must now look beyond political solutions to moral solutions that will surely bring more positive and timely results.
Looking for only technological solutions that require too much time to bring up to standards necessary to stabilize CO2 emissions and may not even be viable at all are not the answer now. We must have a solution now that is natural, simple, virtually inexpensive and that can give us guaranteed results. Reforestation is then the one natural method of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 that is already available to us.
More at the linkTrees provide a service to the life of all species on Earth. They are considered the... more