Mountain Homes Near Metro Areas Major Wildfire Targets
The size in acres of wildfires in the West often gets the most attention. But the location is more important in many cases.
“Uncontrolled wildland fire is particularly hazardous in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), areas where human development is close to, or within, natural terrain and flammable vegetation, and where high potential for wildland fire exists,” says a report by Colorado State University. Such areas are more often called the “red zone.”
A wildfire this week near Fort Collins, Colo., did not approach the hundreds of thousands of acres that have burned in some areas, particularly the Southwest, but the 55,000-acre blaze burned 181 homes, and claimed one life.
On Sunday, the Whitewater-Baldy fire in New Mexico was at 290,630 acres, according to the federal agencies fighting the fire. Twelve homes burned.
Things haven’t changed since 1991, when 25 lives were lost in the Oakland fire storm. It destroyed a combination of 4,000 homes and apartment. It covered less than 2,000 acres. Since, thousands more people have moved into the foothills, for their permanent dwellings or for second homes. The trees that attract them in the first place, are the very things that may one day burn those homes down.
Colorado’s biggest blaze, the Hayman, covered 138,000 acres, and a total of 133 homes were destroyed. The area was much less densely populated than smaller fires that have claimed more homes, and in some cases, lives.
The Fourmile Canyon wildfire of 2010 near Boulder, Colo., burned less than 7,000 acres but destroyed 169 homes. The North Fork wildfire near Conifer in late March covered 4000 acres, destroying 23 homes and claiming four lives. The Storm King wildfire of 1994 claimed the lives of 14 firefighters on the edge of Glenwood Springs, Colo. It covered 2,115 acres but burned no homes.