Experts warn that more intense fires fueled by a warming climate are threatening an increasing number of Colorado's suburban communities.
The destructive firestorm that raged through Colorado last month, along with other major fires in the last few years, highlighted the need for added fire protection, known as "hardening," in all of Colorado's suburbs, say fire scientists and officials.
According to an article by Bruce Finley, researchers point to both climate change and the encroachment of flammable homes in fire-prone areas as factors driving more devastating fires and longer fire seasons. Rising temperatures and dry grass that would normally be buried under snow have been fueling fast-moving fires, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate and destroying more than 1,000 homes last year. Meanwhile, record high winds complicate firefighting efforts, sometimes grounding aircraft and rendering traditional tactics ineffective.
Officials and researchers are scrambling to understand how to prepare for the future and facilitate safe and speedy evacuations. With fires threatening "much wider areas than previously understood," land use will play an increasingly important role in protecting communities that were previously presumed safe.
The Colorado Fire Commission, made up of public safety officials, firefighters, law enforcement, and others, are working on a set of recommendations that could include changes in building codes to mandate non-flammable materials, zoning changes to limit construction in fire zones, and prescribed fires.
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