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Colorado: Federal funds to help restore watersheds in High Park, Waldo Canyon fire areas

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A burned watershed in the footprint of he Waldo Canyon fire.

Critical work in High Park, Waldo Canyon fire areas to protect against flooding and erosion

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal agencies will continue to assist local Colorado governments with critical watershed restoration and protection work.

The projects include mulching, seeding, channel stabilization measures in areas hard-hit by last summer’s High Park and Waldo Canyon fires. The $19.8 million is  funded through the the Emergency Watershed Protection program.

Residences and neighborhoods built in fire-prone forest zones are at risk of flooding in burned areas; local and regional water supplies are also threatened.

Continue reading

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Colorado: Governor forms new wildfire advisory groups

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A Summit County firefighter tackles a roadside blaze in March, 2012 near Keystone, Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Red Zone population increases. climate change and continued drought add urgency to the wildfire discussions

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Responding to last summer’s destructive Colorado wildfires, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week authorized creation of new advisory groups to try reduce the impacts of future fires and to try and reduce the chances of big fires in residential areas.

Last year, the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires destroyed hundreds of homes near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, costing millions of dollars in damages and relocation costs, as well as firefighting and post-burn restoration. Continue reading

GOP blocks funds for Colorado wildfire recovery

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Steep, burned hillsides in the Waldo Canyon burn area need more treatment, but Congress this week cut critical funding for watershed protection and restoration. Photo courtesy PSICC.

Partisan budget bickering continues

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Some of Colorado’s elected officials in Washington, D.C. are fuming over the latest partisan budget maneuvering, which included a move by the House GOP to cut funding that would have helped fire-scarred areas in the state protect their watersheds.

“It was wrong for the House to remove Colorado fire recovery funding from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act,” Democratic Congressman Jared Polis. “Colorado experienced the worst wildfire season on record last year and our communities deserve a helping hand. If the House had passed the Senate disaster relief funding measure  this money would already be on its way to Colorado.”

Monday night, Polis offered a motion that would have allowed consideration of the amendment on the floor of the House during a session of the Rules Committee, but it was defeated on a party line vote of 9-4. The emergency funding measure passed the House Tuesday by a vote of 241-180. Continue reading

Senate bill could boost wildfire restoration efforts

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A bill passed by the U.S. Senate could help additional restoration efforts in areas scarred by wildfires last summer. Photo courtesy PSICC.

‘Water is precious’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Colorado communities hit hard by this past summer’s wildfires could get some help with restoring damaged watershed, as the U.S. Senate passed a disaster recovery bill that includes a boost in resources  to support Colorado’s watershed recovery efforts.

If the House passes the bill, the $125 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program likely will be used, in part, to repair watershed damages that El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties sustained during this year’s wildfire season.

“Water is precious in Colorado, especially right now during the worst drought in years,” said Senator Michael Bennet. “This bill will provide help for the Colorado communities that are recovering from the devastating fires this summer and are now facing threats to their water supply and the risk of flooding at the same time. I am hopeful our colleagues in the House will quickly pass the bill and deliver this support to the communities that need it,” Bennet said. Continue reading

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

Colorado: Pine Ridge Fire fully contained

No new fires reported

A slurry drop at the Pine Ridge Fire. Photo courtesy Brian Borjon/InciWeb.

Firing operations help firefighters contain the Pine Ridge Fire along one of its boundaries. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite facing windy conditions, firefighting crews were able to fully contain the Pine Ridge Fire that burned northeast of Grand Junction for eight days, at one point forcing the evacuation of an entire town as the flames raced toward De Beque.

Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg declared the fire contained at about 6 p.m. on July 4. The fire burned across 13,920 acres in dry brush and scattered stands of piñon pines. At times, the fire burned within sight of the Colorado River and required the intermittent closure of I-70. Continue reading

Waldo Canyon Fire 55 percent contained

A smoke column from the Waldo Canyon Fire on June 26. Photo courtesy Adam Drake/InciWeb.org.

Some residents able to visit their neighborhoods to survey damage; Highway 24 re-opens

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters say they’ve been able to more than halfway contain the deadly Waldo Canyon Fire, a blaze that will go down in history as Colorado’s single most destructive wildfire.

The fire started June 23, three miles west of Colorado Springs. Three days later, it exploded eastward toward the city, killing two people, destroying 346 homes and requiring the evacuation of 32,000 people.

By Sunday afternoon, incident commander Rich Harvey said the 17,827-acre fire was 55 percent contained and announced the re-opening of Highway 24, a major transportation route into the central mountains. Continue reading

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