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Global warming: Forests can’t win for losing

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Drought stress can lead to more tree mortality in the aftermath of forest fires. Photo courtesy Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, Summit County, Colorado.

Yet another climate feedback

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Even if trees aren’t directly killed by drought, the ongoing stress of dry conditions can lead to more tree mortality in the aftermath of forest fires and prescribed burns.

The findings come from a new study that took a close look at varied forest types around the west, including in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

Most of the data was compiled in areas where agencies conducted prescribed fires between 1984 and 2005. The researchers looked at more than 7,000 individual conifers. Continue reading

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Global warming spurs changes in AK wildfire regime

More frequent and intense fires documented in Alaska’s interior region, where conifer forests are giving way to deciduous trees

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The magenta-flowered fireweed, which springs up after a burn, dominates a landscape once covered in black spruce in Alaskas Yukon Flats. Credit: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Global warming is making some of Alaska’s interior forests more flammable, with wildfire activity higher than at any time in the past 10,0000 years, according to new research funded by the National Science Foundation.

The study documented a dramatic increase in both the frequency and severity of fires in recent decades in a 2,000-square-kilometer zone in the Yukon Flats of interior Alaska — already one of the most flammable high-latitude regions of the world.

The fires are converting the conifer-rich boreal forests of Alaska into deciduous woodlands, the study found. Whether the shift to deciduous forests — which traditionally have been thought to be more fire-resistant — will overcome the fire-inducing effects of a warming climate remains to be seen. Continue reading

Climate: NASA to probe forest and forest fire emissions

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New climate research could help fine-tune global warming models. Photo courtesy NASA.

Satellites and planes to scour atmosphere from top to bottom

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Since clouds and pollution high in the atmosphere are still somewhat of a global warming wild card, scientists have been trying to refine their understanding of how those factors affect the climate.

Better data could help refine climate models used to project how much temperatures will increase the next few decades, and a new NASA research project starting in early August could deliver some of that information.

Satellite sensors will probe from above, while planes with instruments on board will fly near the edge of space and at lower elevations simultaneously to provide a multi-dimensional look at how air pollution and natural emissions, which are pushed high into the atmosphere by large storms, affect atmospheric composition and climate. Continue reading

U.S. Forest Service chief addresses wildfire challenges

A wildfire burns near powerlines in Keystone Gulch in June 2011. Photo courtesy Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

A wildfire burns near powerlines in Keystone Gulch in June 2011. Photo courtesy Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

Global warming cited as key factor in increased firefighting costs

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Addressing the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said his agency faces serious firefighting challenges, including tight budgets and a changing climate that is resulting in larger and more frequent fires.

Tidwell’s statement:

“On average, wildfires burn twice as many acres each year as compared to 40 years ago. Last year, the fires were massive in size, coinciding with increased temperatures and early snow melt in the West,” Tidwell said. “The largest issue we now face is how to adapt our management to anticipate climate change impacts and to mitigate their potential effects.” Continue reading

Wildfires: Budget woes to affect fuels treatments, post-fire rehab

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A wildfire burns in Keystone Gulch, near the base of Keystone Ski Area, in June, 2011.

Fewer firefighers, less wildfire fuels treatments and less post-fire rehab

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The federal budget crunch means firefighters will have to do more with less this summer, federal officials said this week. Because of the sequester, the Forest Service will not fill 500 firefighting positions and will make do with 50 less engines on the ground.

“We are facing another dangerous wildfire season. We are prepared; we’re not as funded as we might be about 5 years from now, so teamwork is really critical to what we have to do,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, speaking Monday at a briefing at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise Idaho.

In particular, parts of the West are facing another challenging fire season, with greatest potential threats in the Pacific Coast states and into the interior northwest, including Idaho and southwest Montana, according to the center’s predictive services team. Continue reading

Breckenridge firefighters quell Barton Road blaze

A piece of logging machinery caught fire near Breckenridge, but firefighters were able to extinguish the flames before they spread to nearby forest lands. Photo courtesy Red, White & Blue Fire District.

Logging equipment destroyed in fire

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Observant neighbors and a quick response by local firefighters Wednesday helped prevent a potential wildfire near Breckenridge.

According to the Red, White & Blue Fire District, firefighters were called to a possible wildland fire in the area just above Barton Road and Airport Road in Breckenridge.

When firefighters arrived on scene, they found a piece of heavy equipment used for logging fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters made a quick attack to knock down the fire preventing it from spreading into nearby trees.

A total of seven firefighters worked to extinguish the fire.

The cause of the fire was determined to be a mechanical failure in the engine compartment.  The machine was a total loss and valued at $150,000.

“The quick action of the community seeing smoke and calling 911 helped prevent this fire from spreading,” said deputy chief Jay Nelson. “Our firefighters were able to begin containing and extinguishing this fire before it could spread to the nearby trees and thick pine duff” he said.

Colorado just experienced its worst fire season ever, with deadly blazes along the Front Range destroying several hundred homes. Nationally, wildfires have burned across almost 9 million acres, the most since 2006.

 

Colorado: Udall, Bennet seek in-depth wildfire study

Ash-covered ground and burned trees in the High Park fire zone. Photo courtesy InciWeb.

Letter to feds raises numerous questions about High Park, Waldo Canyon fires but doesn’t mention global warming

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado’s two U.S. Senators are asking the U.S. Forest Service for an in-depth study of several major wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes along the Front Range wildland-urban interface — the red zone, where up to 40 percent of the state’s population has chosen to live in areas where fires are a natural part of the ecosystem.

“The unprecedented nature and pattern of these fires calls for a systematic and scientific analysis to learn how we as a society can do better. Our goal is to make sure that the lessons learned — positive and negative — are captured and acted upon appropriately,” they wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Continue reading

Gov. Hickenlooper to visit Frisco for forest health session

Two meetings next week to focus on forest and wildfire issues

Summit County residents are invited to a forest health powwow with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Grappling with the aftermath of Colorado’s most destructive wildfire season on record, state, federal and local officials will meet Oct. 12 for a half-day forest health summit at the Colorado History Center in Denver.

And in what could be a condensed preview of the Denver powwow, Gov. Hickenlooper will visit Summit County Oct. 10 to participate in a one-hour forest health and wildfire forum at the Summit County Community and Senior Center (10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.).

“Obviously Gov. Hickenlooper is the headliner … it’s an opportunity for Summit County to share with the Governor concerns, successes and opportunities on forest health,” said county commissioner Dan Gibbs, explaining that the session is partly aimed at sharing information about potential options to protect Colorado communities from a repeat of this past summer’s fires. Continue reading

Colorado: Highway 13 Fire near Rifle at 500 acres

Multiple aircraft aim to keep flames west of Grand Hogback

The Highway 13 Fire is burning north of Rifle, Colorado.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Highway 13 Fire, burning near Rifle, in western Colorado, has grown to 500 acres, but firefighters have been able to check the spread of the blaze despite winds gusting up to 25 mph.

According to Inciweb, there are structures in the general vicinity of the fire, but no evacuations have been ordered and Highway 13 remains open. The fire is about nine miles from Rifle Gap Reservoir, burning on the west side of the Grand Hogback in piñon-juniper woodlands and mixed conifer stands. Continue reading

Summit County crews assigned to regional fires

Summit County crews are helping out on several wildfires in the region.

Dry lighting still triggering small fires on Colorado Western Slope

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters have been able to contain a number of lightning-caused wildfires on the Western Slope of Colorado, including the Wrigley Fire and the Long Mesa Fire, burning in the BLM’s Black Canyon Wilderness area.

Elsewhere on the Western Slope, crews are still responding to reports of smoke and smaller fires, scattered primarily over the west and central zones, as thunderstorms continue to spark small blazes in dry fuel.

Suppression work on the Long Mesa Fire advanced using ground crews and helicopter assistance for logistics and some “bucket drops” of water. Better visibility and more accurate mapping capabilities reduced the affected area for this fire to 150 acres. Three crews continue to work on the fire in rough, rugged and remote terrain. Continue reading

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