Up in Flames: Colorado Faces Some of its Most Menacing Wildfires to Date

By SAM SANSON

While you were enjoying the senior calendar and summer sun during Block 8 of last year, Wildfire 117 was destroying homes and burning land less than 30 miles south of Colorado College. 2018 has been the biggest wildfire season for Colorado since 2002, according to statistics kept by the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center in Lakewood. A recent article in the Denver Post listed the 20 largest wildfires in Colorado history by acreage burned, and revealed that five of the largest wildfires in Colorado history took place in 2018.

Fire 416, which occurred 13 miles north of Durango this Summer, was the sixth largest fire in Colorado history and devastated 52,778 acres of land. In late April, Milemarker 117 destroyed 42,795 acres, 23 homes, and forced the evacuation of about 1,000 residents. Burning just south of Colorado Springs, Milemarker 117 was imminent enough to be a topic of Rastall brunch conversation. Momentous in scope, it was the ninth largest wildfire in Colorado history.

The Badger Hole Fire, on the Colorado and Kansas border, burned 33,609 acres in Colorado and a total of 50,815 acres making it the 11th largest fire in Colorado history. The Bull Draw Fire near Nucla has already burned 30,000 acres and is still burning. An incident overview from the Bureau of Land Management released Aug. 27 indicated that “crews were able to maintain considerable containment on the Bull Draw Fire which remains at 30,208 acres and 54 percent contained.”

Perhaps the most notable fire in the 2018 season is the Spring Creek Fire that damaged 108,045 acres and, making it the third largest fire in Colorado history. Jesper Joergensen, a man from Denmark with an expired visa, was arrested for starting the Spring Creek Fire. Joergensen is now facing 141 counts of first-degree arson.

Colorado isn’t the only state gaining attention for a record-breaking wildfire season. The largest wildfires in California history are occurring right now. Collectively the Mendocino complex and Carr fires have already torched 688,753 acres, according to the Bureau of Land Management. The start of the Mendocino Complex is still under investigation, but the cause of the Carr fire was human-related.

Humans are the cause of most wildfires; according to the United States Department of Interior, as many as 90 percent of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by people. That means that the solution to the wildfire problem begins with you.

As a decent human being, you are probably wondering, what can you do to prevent wildfires? Smokey the Bear has some basic rules for wildfire prevention: always be careful with fire; never play with matches or lighters; always watch your campfire; make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving it. National Geographic has some good tips as well. Their reference guide delineates necessary actions: Contact 911, your local fire department, or the Park Service if you notice an unattended or out-of-control fire; never leave a fire unattended; completely extinguish the fire; do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles, or anywhere on park grounds, and follow local ordinances when burning yard waste.

Although these tips are simple to follow, it is just as easy to ignore them. Don’t. Wildfires are wreaking havoc across Colorado and the West. If this isn’t reason enough, know that penalties for leaving fires unattended or violating fire restrictions can mean up to six months in jail and fines of as much as $5,000. As Smokey the Bear says, only YOU can prevent wildfires.

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