Colorado just had its worst wildfire ever—in the middle of winter


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In an unexpected and fiery turn of events, fast-moving wildfire Marshall spread across the state of Colorado last Thursday, pummeling through 6,000 acres in just a few hours. Thousands of people have been rapidly evacuated from counties and towns north of Denver,. As of January 2, three individuals are still missing, including a search for 91-year-old Nadine Turnbull who was last seen in her burning home in Superior.

“It was in [the] blink of an eye. This was a disaster in fast motion, all in the course of half a day,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press conference on December 31. “Nearly 1,000 homes are gone.” Cold, snowy weather over the weekend has since suppressed the fire…

“I have thought it won’t be long before we start experiencing fires like California where flames chase people out of their neighborhoods,” Becky Bolinger, an assistant state climatologist at the center at Colorado State University, told the Denver Post. “I didn’t expect that would happen in December.”

Climate change is essentially keeping our fuels drier longer,” Jennifer Balch, a fire scientist and director of the Earth Lab at CU Boulder, told NPR. “These grasses that were burning—you know, they’ve been baked, essentially, all fall and all winter. On top of that, we didn’t get a lick of moisture.”

On top of tricky climate conditions, population growth poses an especially serious threat for disastrous wildfires. As more people move into what were once uninhabited grasslands, fire-risky activities, like starting a car or having a barbeque, become more common. All the while, local management policies might shift toward suppressing natural flames. Keeping small burns from happening in populated neighborhoods ends up leading to more and more fuel build-up, setting the stage for massive destruction.

Scientists will continue to investigate and research new and added dangers, Something we can’t ignore.