Summit Voice: Most-viewed stories

Wildfire, weather, climate and the environment …

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Summit Voice had readers all over the world the past 30 days, including page views originating in Greenland and Mongolia.

FRISCO — Coverage of the West Fork Fire Complex, which has grown to become the second-largest wildfire in the state’s recorded history, was the most-viewed story last week, but a water story focusing in Lake Powell and published just yesterday, quickly raced up the charts, followed by a story on the environmental impacts of using dispersants on oil spills.

Click on the headlines to read the stories and pass them along on your own favorite social media netwoks by using the share buttons at the end of each story.

Federal wildfire budgets need a makeover

Congress makes bipartisan push to reform funding for prevention

The East Peak Fire burns in late June, 2013 in the Spanish Peaks area. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org/Don Degman.

The East Peak Fire burns in late June, 2013 in the Spanish Peaks area. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org/Don Degman.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators says the Forest Service must find a better to allocate funds for firefighting. Cutting money for wildfire prevention leads to spiraling costs for firefighting and ultimately increases the size of fires, the senators wrote in a June 28 letter to cabinet members.

The letter requests the administration to create an action plan to fully fund prevention efforts such as hazardous fuels reduction, in addition to fire suppression efforts. Currently, the administration takes funds from other non-fire programs to pay for fire suppression costs – a practice called fire borrowing. Continue reading

Colorado: Breckenridge bans 4th of July sparklers

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It’s lights-out for handheld sparklers and other small ground-based fireworks in Breckenridge.

Fire concerns cited as reason for zero-tolerance policy on illegal pyrotechnics

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Fireworks enthusiasts are feeling the squeeze in Breckenridge, where the town recently banned all previously permissible ground-based fireworks, including sparklers, ground spinners and small fountain and Roman candle-type fireworks.

The ban is based on wildfire concerns, as town officials said that even the smallest spark could lead to a wildfire in the dry forest surrounding the community. Fireworks are suspected as the possible cause of a small wildfire last weekend in the lower French Gulch area. Continue reading

Colorado: West Fork Fire continues to grow

Firefighters have made progress in protecting developments in the area

The West Fork Fire complex perimeter as of June 23, 2013.

The West Fork Fire complex perimeter as of June 23, 2013.

Thick smoke from the West Fork Fire Complex hangs over Del Norte, Colorado. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org.

Thick smoke from the West Fork Fire Complex hangs over Del Norte, Colorado. Photo courtesy Inciweb.org.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Firefighters said they made progress Sunday in setting up defensive positions around summer cabins, residences and other developed facilities near the West Fork Fire Complex, which grew to about 76,000 acres by the end of the weekend.

In the most recent update on InciWeb.org, officials said firefighters are planning to install sprinkler systems to help protect some developed facilities in the area. The town of South Fork is still under an evacuation order, and the summer recreation economy in the region is taking a big hit.

Another round of red flag fire weather, with increasing southwest winds and low humidity will continue to hamper efforts to contain the fire, which was started by lightning earlier this month. Continue reading

More wildfires burning in Colorado

Evacuations in effect forLime Gulch Fire

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The West Fork Fire complex has grown to more than 600 acres in the rugged San Juan backcountry of southwest Colorado. Photo courtesy InciWeb.org.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With several new wildfires burning in Colorado and red flag warnings in effect for much of the state, Summit County officials have put a temporary hold on slash burning permits.

“We all have seen the tragic consequences of wildfires yet again in our state, and we want to do everything we can to prevent an out-of-control blaze here in Summit County,” said Lake Dillon Fire Chief Dave Parmley. “This is a worthwhile precaution, especially as we have three teams of firefighters out of the county on the Black Forest fire, as well as two other wildfire leaders assigned to other blazes.”

The Black Forest Fire may be in a mop-up phase, but the Lime Gulch Fire near Conifer and Evergreen is still growing. The Jefferson County fire was initially called the Chair Rock Fire but officials changed the name about about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

The Jefferson County Emergency Blog has been activated to support the Chair Rock Fire, burning in the area of Foxton Road and River Road near Conifer, Colorado.

A level three evacuation (leave now) has been issued for the areas within a three-mile radius of the Foxton Road and River Road intersection. According to the JeffCo emergency blog, 410 phones were called within this evacuation area.  Deputies are in the area going door to door to assist with the evacuations. Continue reading

Colorado: Grants available for wildfire mitigation

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Flames tower over a stand of piñon trees during the Royal Gorge fire near Cañon City.

New state program aims to reduce the risk of fire in wildland-urban interface

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — State officials say they’re ready to start taking applications for a new $9.8 million grant program aimed at reducing wildfire risks to neighborhoods built in and near flammable forests, where wildfire is a natural part of the ecosystem.

The new program was created by Senate Bill 13-269 and passed this year by the Colorado General Assembly. It focuses on projects that reduce the risk for damage to property, infrastructure, and water supplies, and that limit the likelihood of wildfires spreading into populated areas. Funds will be directed to non-federal lands within Colorado.

Eligible applicants include community groups, local governments, utilities, state agencies and non-profit groups. Applicants must contribute 100 percent matching funds, which can include in-kind resources, for a 50-50 grant-to-match ratio. Applicants must also identify plans to make use of the woody material resulting from the projects. Those plans can include using the materials for biomass energy and/or traditional forest products. Continue reading

Colorado: Black Forest fire destroys 360 homes

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Fire danger remains high across much of Colorado.

No containment yet, as winds and fuel continue to vex firefighters

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The Black Forest Fire has spread across about 15,000 acres and destroyed 360 homes, making it the most destructive wildfire in Colorado on record in terms of property damage. More information on all Colorado wildfires at http://www.coemergency.com/.

Wind and fuel conditions are the big wild cards as firefighters try to gain some measure of containment, said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, describing how the fire has been smoldering in a thick layer of pine needles and cones, then flaring to 30-foot flames when the winds pick up.

There were areas where things look pretty well calmed down, then you have a gust of wind and your’re back to a raging fire … The wind is probably the number-one game changer,” Maketa said.

Officials still don’t have any idea how the fire started, but Maketa said arson investigators were sifting through ashes near where the fire was first reported until the fire once again flared up in that area.

Maketa said there hasn’t been much discussion of containment — and that there won’t be, until a fire line is established somewhere along the perimeter and holds for 24 hours.

The evacuation order at the fire now covers 94,000 acres, 13,000 homes and 38,000 people, Maketa said.

 

 

Summit County firefighters head to Front Range

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Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue crews fighting a small wildfire near Keystone, Colorado in March, 2012.

Moderate fire danger in the high country enable local departments to lend a hand with Black Forest Fire

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With only a moderate potential for wildfires in Summit County, local firefighters have been sent to the Front Range to help fight the destructive Black Forest Fire. The assignment could last as long as two weeks, according to a press release from Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

The fire northeast of Colorado Springs has already destroyed about 80 to 100 homes and forced the evacuation of several thousand residents, and more homes are still at risk.

In Summit County, fire experts say wildfires are unlikely right now following a wet spring. The potential for fires is expected to creep up the next few weeks and could reach a critical level by late June, according to LDFR deputy chief Jeff Berino. Continue reading

Colorado: Several wildfires erupt on hot and windy day

Evacuations ordered near Royal Gorge

SUMMIT COUNTY — On a day that began with red flag warnings across many parts of Colorado, multiple fires have been reported, including the Royal Gorge Fire, which has managed to jump across the Arkansas River and grew to about 200 acres by Tuesday afternoon, just west of Canon City.

Evacuations are also in effect in the Black Forest area, according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office:

Another fire has started in the Big Meadows area of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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More info on the fire in Rocky Mountain National Park in this NPS press release:

Today, Tuesday, June 11, an interagency crew consisting of Rocky Mountain National Park and US Forest Service firefighters were flown to the Big Meadows Fire located on the north end of Big Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The location is roughly 4.5 miles from the Green Mountain Trailhead. The preliminary report is the fire did not grow much last night and remains at approximately 2 to 3 acres, mainly burning in grass. The fire was caused by lightning.

Although it is preferred to allow naturally occurring fires to burn for the benefit of the resource and future fire breaks, park managers have decided to suppress the fire when safe to do so. Extended drought conditions and reduced interagency resources weighed in to this decision. The capacity to manage what would likely be a long duration fire is significantly limited.

This decision did not come easily; each fire’s risk is managed individually.  Park managers look at each naturally occurring fire on a case by case basis when determining how best to manage a fire.

High winds today are impacting firefighting operations but have not increased the footprint of the fire significantly.   Firefighters have not seen any open flames today and the fuel moisture is relatively high.  Smokejumpers are staged nearby if needed. Firefighters will be using minimum impact tools to suppress smoldering grass and other dead and down material. The area does contain beetle killed trees; snags are being removed for firefighter safety.

Currently there are five trails temporarily closed in the area – the Onahu Trail, the Green Mountain Trail, the lower Tonahutu Trail, the Tonahutu Spur Trail and the Grand Lake Lodge Spur Trail.

Red flag fire warning for parts of Colorado

Record high temps, SW winds combine for fire weather

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Red flag fire conditions could persist across much of Colorado this week.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A wet spring has delayed the onset of critical wildfire conditions in parts of Colorado, but not everywhere. The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for big parts of Colorado, including the entire southern half of the state, parts of the Western Slope and a strip along the Front Range from Colorado Springs through Fort Collins to the Wyoming border.

According to the warning, the wildfire danger is “very high to extreme” in the Rocky Mountain foothills and South Park, where dry lightning storms could flare up this evening. Continue reading

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