The fire season, much like hurricane season, has become increasingly longer due to the effects of climate change. As I’m writing this, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is reporting that there are thirty-seven large fires in progress in eighteen different states. They include full suppression and resource managed fires. About 2,600,000 acres have burned this year, while last year’s tally was over 5 and a half million. There’s a lot of fire season to come, and coupled with the drought many areas are experiencing and the massive amounts of beetle-killed pines and spruce…it’s expected to be a real pip.
The weather has been cooperating with suppression efforts; some areas in the Southwest have gotten a little rain, but the forecast is for higher temperatures and thundershowers to develop over the Great Basin and Rockies.
Our local fire here in SW Colorado once again made me very aware of how important air support is to fire suppression, and most especially the slurry bombers dropping retardant to aid fires from getting out of control early, and also for providing help around the edges to aid the ground crews stop it from spreading further. Creating a fire line means removing vegetation down to bare dirt, often by hand, using tools like short hoes (pulaskis). Backbreaking work it must be; our son, who spent five years as a hotshot, agrees.
This was the fourth time our mountain has caught on fire over the decades we’ve lived here, and I’ve witnessed up close what the planes and helicopters, whether dippers or skycranes can accomplish.
The first morning after we were evacuated, I watched the fire…it barely had laid down all night, but by dawn…it was at least subdued. I was sure that any moment I’d first hear, then see the slurry bombers coming to the rescue.