‘Unprecedented’ West Fork Fires Explode to 60,000 Acres, Town of South Fork Evacuated

West Fork Inferno

(Image source: NPR)

Today, fires raging in the region of West Fork, Colorado exploded through a forest full of pine-beetle ravaged trees, swelled as 50 mph wind gusts fanned the flames, and joined into an immense blaze covering nearly 60,000 acres. The fire swept through miles of drought-ravaged forest at a pace that firefighters described as nearly unprecedented casting thick smoke over a broad swath of Colorado. A murky haze spread out from the blaze, enveloping regions up to 100 miles away, causing cars to use their headlights during daytime.

Under immediate threat from the encircling blazes, the entire town of South Fork was evacuated forcing about 1,000 to flee the area. As of yet, no buildings have been damaged. Highway 160 was also closed due to the encroaching fire.

The West Fork Fire is now the second major forest fire to threaten Colorado this month. Earlier, the Black Forest Fire devoured nearly 400 homes becoming the costliest fire in Colorado history.

A global-warming intensified drought has plagued Colorado since spring of last year. With many areas experiencing near-record dryness, risk of fires is likely to remain high throughout the summer. Currently, more than 44% of the United States is still experiencing drought after more than one year of continuously dry conditions have ravaged much of the US Southwest.

As human caused climate change intensifies, Colorado is expected to see the frequency of wildfires more than double. So, unfortunately, what we are seeing is just the beginning. A rapid mitigation via drastically reducing human greenhouse gas emissions can help to reduce the degree of future harm. Unfortunately, Colorado is probably in for at least some worsening conditions even if the most responsible path toward lowering our contribution to atmospheric carbon is taken.

Links:

Colorado West Fork Fire Complex Grows to 53,00o Acres

West Fork Fire Complex Grows to 60,000 Acres, Entire Town Evacuated

Black Forest Fire Now Most Destructive in Colorado History

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6 Comments

  1. And this is one of the feedback loops… forest fires due to drought due to climate change due to manmade greenhouse gases. Of course other factors make it even worse with natural fire cycles having been suppressed for decades. I live in the largest stand of ponderosa pine in America and this is always at the back of my mind. The psychological effects of climate change are all too real for the reality-based community.

    Reply
    • Ouch. I hope you’re in a protected area.

      I know what you mean. My parents live in Hampton Roads. I felt a tight knot in my gut as I watched Sandy form and churn toward the northeast. An early jog left would have been devastating for them. As it was, the gigantic storm flooded roads and flung hurricane conditions at them as it passed an astounding 200 miles off shore. North Duck, on the outer banks and just southeast of my hometown was a mess of destroyed sand dunes and over wash.

      But they were spared. If that hybrid monster had hit there, we would have had storm surge flooding more than 20 miles inland.

      It’s a different world. That storm would have never happened without climate change. And what’s coming down the pipe is far worse.

      I hope it stays safe where you are.

      Reply
      • Many of us will be joining the ranks of the “climate refugee”. Stats on that subject would be quite interesting, but I don’t think anyone’s keeping score.

      • 42 million climate refugees in 2011, 30 million in 2012. By comparison, 2012 saw 7.2 million refugees from warfare.

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