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Feds prepping for what could be another bad wildfire season

The High Park Fire burns west of Fort Collins in June, 2012.

The High Park Fire burns west of Fort Collins in June, 2012.

Comments wanted on draft fire management strategy

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After an exceptional western fire season that included the largest wildfire ever in New Mexico, the second-largest in Colorado and the largest in Oregon since the 1860s, land managers are starting to brace for another long summer.

With parts of the West facing a second consecutive year of drought, there is some concern that 2013 could be even worse than 2012, which ended up ranked third all-time for the amount of land impact by wildfires. According to the year-end stats, wildfires burned across a footprint of about 9.2 million acres. All three of the biggest wildfire seasons on record have occurred during the past 10 years, coinciding with the hottest decade on record.

According to a year-end report from the National Climatic Data Center, the number of fires wasn’t remarkable, but the average size of fires was at a near record level. The fire season began early and in a big way in May, when the lightning-sparked Whitewater and Baldy fires in New Mexico merged to burn about 300,000 acres. That easily surpassing the state’s previous biggest fire which occurred near Los Alamos just one year earlier.

In Colorado, wildfires burned 252,000 acres, with more than half of that total burning during June as part of the worst Colorado wildfire season in a decade. One person died in the High Park Fire, near Fort Collins. The blaze destroyed 259 homes and was the second-largest ever in Colorado after the 2002 Hayman Fire. The Waldo Canyon Fire killed two people. It also started in June and destroyed 346 homes.

To prepare for the 2013 season, land managers and fire experts are preparing an action plan for a western cohesive wildfire strategy. The draft plan is out for public comment, with information at this website

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