Wildland firefighters stand down, review safety, as conditions worsen

Federal fire managers ordered safety stand-downs Monday morning and gave hundreds of wildland firefighters the option of packing up and going home after 19 elite crew members were killed in Arizona.

“The immediate impact of that fire is on re-focusing everybody throughout the fire community on safety,” said National Interagency Fire Center spokesman Randy Eardley. “They will talk about it, reflect on it and refocus their efforts on safety.”

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West Fork fire complex in Colorado feeding on beetle-ravaged forests

SOUTH FORK — Wildfires spread to an estimated 66,200 acres Saturday in spruce-beetle-ravaged forests, continuing to imperil tourist towns on the west edge of Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

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Nature Conservancy offers alternative to aggressive fire suppression

JAMESTOWN — A team combining ecological know-how with hotshot firefighting is being deployed in Front Range forests to try to address Colorado’s wildfire predicament: needing the purge of fire but not wanting it.

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After Fern Lake fire in Rocky Mountain National Park, new life forms

An unprecedented post-Thanksgiving wildfire that burned through snow, frustrating firefighters as ponds froze and ice coated helicopters, has revitalized forests and meadows in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Foresters have 180,000 piles of trees to burn in Colorado forests

PINEWOOD LAKE —  A federal forester flicked a Bic, igniting a first bone-dry pile of culled young pines — testing conditions for the looming task of torching 180,000 similar piles across Colorado.

The continued construction of houses in burn zones is forcing this effort to thin overly dense forests and reduce the risk of super-intense wildfires.

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Larimer farmers warned scorched forests may shut off irrigation water

BUCKEYE — The scorching of Colorado forests by super-intense wildfires is worsening the water woes for Eldon Ackerman and other Larimer County farmers, jeopardizing thousands of irrigated acres that normally produce millions of dollars in crops.

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Wildfire: Red slurry’s toxic dark side

The hundreds of thousands of gallons of red slurry that air tankers are dropping on Colorado forests to shield mountain houses from wildfires has a downside: It is toxic. Laced with ammonia and nitrates, it has the potential to kill fish and taint water supplies.

Federal authorities say they’re implementing new rules prohibiting application of fire-retardant chemicals within 600 feet of waterways. Air tanker pilots and crew commanders now are required to carry maps that identify sensitive terrain — such as areas where greenback cutthroat trout and Pawnee montane skipper butterflies are monitored as sentinel species.

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Hayman fire, 10 years later: More forests being allowed to burn

A decade-long move toward prescribed fires and forest-thinning has not reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfires along the Front Range, federal and state authorities say.

And firefighting commanders increasingly favor letting more forests burn — if people aren’t threatened — instead of mounting all-out assaults. They say it’s smarter to let some fires burn naturally because this can help prevent huge fires that ruin forest seed stocks and watersheds.

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Replanting forests in Colorado wildfire areas has benefit for water supply

WESTCREEK — Pushing to accelerate nature’s healing, the U.S. Forest Service is deploying contract labor crews who this week began planting 146,000 more pine and fir trees — an effort to stabilize wildfire-ravaged mountainsides that slump into metro Denver water supplies.

But every new catastrophic wildfire adds to the blackened-dead acreage west of Colorado’s Front Range cities. And water providers face increasing costs — which are passed to residents in monthly water bills — as more eroding sediment descends across burned watershed and clogs reservoirs.

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