High Country News
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High Country News

Colorado’s wildfires require a drastic and collective fix

Climate change should be seen as a number one priority.

I live on a county road near the evacuation perimeter of what is now Colorado’s largest wildfire. Yesterday, the sheriff’s deputy was outside, his lights flashing red-blue-red, giving my house a strobe light effect. He was directing traffic as people fled the mountain with trailers filled with cattle and horses and goats and belongings.

The wind was roaring, first one direction and then another, which is why this fire blew up again. The Cameron Peak Fire has been burning for two months — a long two months — leaving me and most of my neighbors with a hacking cough and guts that feel like they’re filled with clay.

The Cameron Peak Fire could be seen from Loveland, Colorado, in mid-August. As of late October, the fire had grown to more than 200,000 acres and was only 64% contained. Ed Ogle/CC via Flickr

When we get the occasional blue sky day, I’m so relieved that I play hooky from work and walk up this county road, getting in exercise while I can, trying to clear my head while I can, obligations be damned. I truly find it hard to care about anything, which is saying something, given my personality. Even work is difficult on smoky days — my brain feels gritty because of ash and helicopters overhead and the grim anxiety in the air. It’s hard to process things, to be productive, to think.

I thought I’d be better at this, more resilient, less fazed. As a person born in Colorado, I’m used to wildfire. Plus, I know that these forests needed to burn. Not like this, sure, but we all knew they were a tinderbox, and it’s just a flat-out, predictable truth that they were going to go. On top of that, we know climate change makes it worse.

See the rest of the story here: https://www.hcn.org/articles/opinion-wildfire-colorados-wildfires-require-a-drastic-and-collective-fix

Laura Pritchett is a contributor to Writers on the Range, (writersontheerange.org), a nonprofit spurring lively conversation about the West. She is a novelist and directs the MFA in nature writing at Western Colorado University.

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High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.