Written By: Eleanor Pratt
The fight against Colorado’s two largest wildfires continues even as the state experiences multiple snowstorms. The fires are thought to be the worst in the state’s history, burning over 400,000 acres altogether. While the snow is certainly better than nothing, experts warn that it may not be enough to stop the fires completely..
The East Troublesome Fire is only 20% contained and has burned over 196,560 acres so far. According to the Denver Post, the fire began rather recently on Oct. 14, in Hot Sulphur Springs. The Cameron Peak Fire is slightly more contained at 64% but is considered to be the biggest in Colorado’s history after burning more than 208,600 acres. This fire has been burning since Aug. 13. Both have now moved into the Rocky Mountain National Park, but as of right now the park has not suffered too much damage.
On Sunday, Oct. 25 and Monday, Oct, 26, many were glad to see upwards of 6-12 inches of snow in areas where the fires were burning the worst. Places such as Larimer County were even lucky enough to have around 20 inches of snow. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis told NPR “We’re grateful for snow which fell heavily on our state over the weekend, and really gave the firefighters a much better chance at being able to keep these fires away from major population centers.”
The snow helped officials to conduct damage assessments on homes and other structures in the area, according to the Denver Post. Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin made a statement that the assessment had found 100 homes to have been destroyed by the East Troublesome Fire, but that they were “finding more every direction [they] turn around.” It has been hard for law enforcement to determine whether burned structures are actually homes, or are other types of structures such as barns or detached garages.
The Cameron Peak Fire, on the other hand, has destroyed over 426 structures, including 209 residential homes and 108 outbuildings, according to sheriff’s officials in Larimer County. Unfortunately, the snow has been a blessing and a curse for those living in Colorado. While it has allowed officials to begin to assess the damage done by the fires, the snow has also made travel slower and more dangerous as the roads are now icy and slick.
Unfortunately, authorities also warn, “The snow has slowed fire activity; however it is not expected to be enough to put the fire out. Temperatures are forecasted to gradually warm back up beginning Tuesday.” In fact, according to atmospheric scientists working at Colorado State University, Colorado has been having record high temperatures in recent years due to climate change, and these huge fires will continue to happen unless something is done soon.
Firefighters are hard at work trying to contain these awful fires and are grateful that the snow has given them “…a good quiet couple of days,” as the East Troublesome fire incident commander Noel Livingston told the press. However, even when firefighters do manage to fully stop the burning, as long as nothing is done to combat climate change, more and more of these massive fires will continue to occur.