This is the "worst fire season in the history of Colorado"
National Guard/Public Domain
That's how Colorado governor John Hickenlooper referred to the fast-moving blazes that have turned large swaths of the centennial state into a fiery hellhole. Later, as he looked down from the passenger seat of an observation helicopter, he probably added something closer to "Holy shit."
Because it looked like this:
raging wildfires such as the Waldo Canyon inferno [have] scorched some 6,200 acres of land since June 23 and displaced 32,000 from their homes on June 26.Now, Coloradans are crossing their fingers until they bulge blue at the knuckles, hoping the fire doesn't sweep through three locations in particular, which it is currently threatening:
Fueled by 100-degree temperatures, dryness, and strong winds from the prairies, the Waldo Canyon swelled rapidly on June 26 and jumped firefighters’ perimeter lines at the outskirts of Colorado Springs.
1) Pikes Peak, the world's second most visited mountain. It'd be a major blow to the tourism industry, to nature-lovers who prefer their mountain ranges non-charred, and, oh yeah, to nature itself.
2) The U.S. Air Force Academy, also located nearby. There have already been some forced evacuations and homes consumed by the fire.
3) Colorado Springs, the state's second largest city, Pop. 650,000, for obvious reasons.
As it stands, the fire is not yet contained, has cost the state over $30 million to combat, and has claimed the life of one elderly woman.
Since it serves no one to tiptoe around the blunt truths of incidents like this, it should be noted, again, as always, that climate change is helping to make conditions more amenable to wildfires like this one—hotter, drier weather means an increased likelihood of fires. Here's Time again: "Experts pin the flames down to extreme temperatures and dry winds. The nation is experiencing “a super-heated spike on top of a decades-long warming trend,” [according to the] National Climatic Data Center." And word is, that warming trend isn't going anywhere ...
Also, just a reminder: Thanks to budget cuts demanded by the GOP, $512 million has been gutted from funding for preventing and fighting forest fires. In short, there will be plenty more hellish fires like this one, and we will be increasingly unprepared to deal with them.