Wildfires along Colorado’s Front Range, long assumed to be intensifying, may not be when understood in historical context before 20th-century firefighting, a new study finds.
The findings could complicate the analysis of whether thick forests should be thinned.
University of Colorado researchers, led by fire ecologist and geography professor Tom Veblen, analyzed 8,000 tree-ring samples, starting in 1996, and concluded that severe fires have been an inherent part of mountain ecosystems.
The main evergreen and aspen tree species making up Rocky Mountain forests are dwindling and likely will die out dramatically by 2060, according to a report by science advocacy groups.
It’s not clear what will replace them.
The Union of Concerned Scientists and Rocky Mountain Climate Organization report, unveiled Wednesday, draws on U.S. Forest Service data documenting tree deaths and projecting future growth based on climate.
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s wildfire team unveiled an overhaul of how Colorado deals with the growing problem of people building houses in forests prone to burn, shifting more of the responsibility to homeowners.
The overhaul recommends that lawmakers charge fees on homes built in woods, rate the wildfire risk of the 556,000 houses already built in burn zones on a 1-10 scale and inform insurers, and establish a state building code for use of fire-resistant materials and defensible space.
Sellers of homes would have to disclose wildfire risks, just as they must disclose flood risks. And state health officials would adjust air-quality permit rules to give greater flexibility for conducting controlled burns in overly dense forests to reduce the risk of ruinous superfires.
FRISCO —Coloradans living in forests are trying to fireproof their communities as larger and hotter wildfires destroy more homes and firefighting costs grow intolerable.
Increasing numbers of burn-zone residents are finding they have little choice but to coexist with wildfire — part of the natural environment and crucial to keeping forests healthy.
County authorities and local fire chiefs are encouraging the shift toward greater self-protection, aided by the federally backed Fire Adapted Communities program.