From The Fort Lewis College Independent (Jackson Zinsmeyer):
On July 31, 18 miles north of Grand Junction, Colorado, lightning struck starting what would become Colorado’s largest wildfire at 139,000 acres burnt.
According to the Incident Information System, Inciweb, the fire is 95% contained as of Sept. 11.
Despite being nearly four hours away from Durango, this fire, as well as the many other fires in Colorado such as the Cameron Peak and Glenwood Springs fires, will impact Durango’s community and environment as the fires continue to burn.
Much like the 416 fire Durango experienced just over two years ago, the Glenwood Springs fire is burning into the watersheds suffocating fish and river-life, Dr. Gigi Richard, director of the Four Corners Water Center and instructor of geosciences at Fort Lewis College said.
“Sixty percent of fish in the Animas river were killed from sediment caused by short, high intensity fires,” Richard said.
Forest fires have the ability to decimate crucial parts of an ecosystem by destroying animal habitats, driving animals into nearby cities and towns and destroying natural sources of food for these animals making it harder for them to return to nature, Dr. Jared Beeton, assistant professor of environmental studies at Fort Lewis College, said.
The fires taking place in Colorado are likely to displace animals throughout the state, Beeton said.
These displaced animals will come into cities looking for shelter, food and water, and as long as these animals are left alone, no issues should be caused by them, he said.
Richard notes that in 2002, during the Hayman Fire, former Gov. Bill Owens said, “It looks as if all of Colorado is burning today.” Many tourists were afraid to travel into Colorado because of this statement, Richard said.
Richard said the Durango train and the San Juan National Forest were closed because of fire hazards during the 416 fire.
The closure of the forest and train were seen by tourists as a reason not to travel into Durango and Colorado as a whole, making it difficult for many small businesses that rely on tourism, Richard said.
The fires that are burning around the state of Colorado will continue to impact the communities, wildlife, and business’ for years to come as the state and cities recover from the price of fighting fires, Richard said.