All five of the bills we asked you to support to militgate wildfire, SB22-007, HB22-1007, HB22-1011, HB22-1012, and HB22-1132, have been passed! Thanks for participating in our letter writing campaign — keep an eye out for the next one.
The state of Fire in Colorado:
Our fire season is increasing in severity, with fires more frequent, larger, and more widespread than in the past. Our fire season is also getting longer, with the number of fire weather days per year having more than doubled since 1973. A hotter, drier climate has also doubled the extent of fire-prone ecosystems across our state.
Human ignitions are also driving the change in our fire season. In the past ten years, human ignitions have been responsible for 86% of wildfires, and 56% of acres burned.
The cost of fires:
Wildfires are expensive to fight, and the damage they do can be even more costly.
Top 5 fires in terms of suppression cost:
2020 Cameron Peak Fire 133.3 million
2002 Hayman Fire 42 million
2002 Iron Mountain Fire 40 million
2012 High-Park Fire 38.4 million
2002 Missionary Ridge 37 million
Top 5 fires in terms of losses (2022 USD):
2021 Marshall Fire 2.1 billion
2020 East Troublesome 603 million
2012 Waldo Canyon 568 million
2013 Black Forest Fire 518 million
2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire 286 million
Not to mention the cost of rehabilitation, loss of resource and recreation-based jobs and tourist dollars, and the drop in property values. And those are only the monetary costs.
Fires also have public health impacts, threaten ecosystem services, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
How we confront it:
There are three primary drivers behind Colorado’s worsening fire season: a build-up of fuels from decades of fire suppression, climate change, and human ignitions.
Here’s how we can address these drivers:
- Forest Management (tree thinning, prescribed burns)
- Climate Action
- Wildfire outreach and education
One of our greatest tools in our fight to get fire back in balance is forest management, including prescribed burns and other forest thinning measures. Effective management can improve the resiliency of our forests, protect ecosystem services, and make fires more possible to control (and therefore less costly).
A Colorado State Forest Service study estimated a roughly $4.2 billion backlog in tree thinning needed. In recent years, the majority of our wildfire spending has been focused on responding to wildfires rather than working to mitigate them. Fortunately, after 2020’s record fire year we seem to be heading in a better direction.
Write your representatives and urge them to continue funding wildfire mitigation.
Image source: Wildfire Related Funding in Colorado (2021), Legislative Council Staff Memorandum
Outreach and Education:
Human ignitions are responsible for the vast majority of fires in our state. Raising awareness of fire risks and personal mitigation measures, particularly for those living in the Wildland Urban Interference (WUI), can help curb our contributions to the fire season.
Ask your representatives to support wildfire outreach and education efforts.
Climate change is resulting in a drier and hotter climate in Colorado, providing ideal conditions for fires to catch and spread. If we continue with “business as usual,” with increasing green- house gas emissions, the situation will continue to deteriorate. Climate action on a state and federal level will play a critical role in determining the course of fire in the years to come.
Urge your officials to support climate action.