“Worse than anything you could have imagined”: How the #EastTroublesomeFire became so destructive — The #Colorado Sun

Here’s an in-depth report about the East Troublesome fire from Jesse Paul that’s running in the The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole article, it is a terrific bit of writing. Here’s an excerpt:

The Colorado Sun interviewed about a dozen firefighters, first responders and evacuees to piece together a timeline of the East Troublesome fire’s terrifying 100,000-acre run on Oct. 21

Grand Lake Fire Marshal Dan Mayer was horrified.

In a matter of minutes, the East Troublesome fire had transformed his community into an unrecognizable hellscape. Homes were burning all around him. Hundreds of spot fires threatened more structures. Embers and smoke were blowing by in what seemed like hurricane-force winds.

The fire was so intense that Mayer was forced to flee along with scores of civilians and other first responders as the inferno — perhaps the fastest-moving in Colorado history — made its initial pass through the high-altitude vacation community of Grand Lake. ..

The Colorado Sun interviewed about a dozen firefighters, first responders and evacuees to piece together a timeline of the East Troublesome fire’s terrifying run on Oct. 21, the day it became one of the most destructive wildfires in Colorado history, burning more than 100,000 acres in a matter of hours and consuming more than 300 homes…

The accounts provided to The Sun reveal just how dire the situation became within a short span, and just how narrowly many people and homes escaped death and destruction. Within two hours, the East Troublesome blaze had turned from a docile foe into an unstoppable force, prompting evacuations over an area so large that authorities thought it would take hours to get everyone out. They had about 90 minutes.

A mix of paid and volunteer firefighters from a few small Grand County departments were on their own to try to save their community. Some of their own homes were destroyed in the flames.

Todd Holzwarth, chief of the East Grand Fire Protection District in Winter Park, Fraser and Tabernash, said firefighters took a major risk. “I told my guys, ‘You have engaged a fire that, under most circumstances, what everybody does is back off, get into safe areas and get their cameras out,’” Holzwarth said.

It’s not totally clear what happened, but firefighters now believe the smoke column that was building over the fire all day suddenly collapsed, sending a rush of air downwards and shooting flames out in every direction toward fuels that were tinder-dry after a summer of climate-change-driven drought.

Baumgarten said the firestorm reminded him of a weather event in Grand County a few years ago that sent damaging microbursts from Kremmling to Grand Lake…

East Troublesome Fire October 21, 2020 via Wildfire Today.

The first fire engines arrived in the Trail Creek Estates neighborhood between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Crews quickly realized there was little they could do. The fire was moving too fast and was too intense for them to actually battle it.

“By the time our engines got to the area, they couldn’t get in,” White said, calling the fire behavior “pretty chaotic.”

Sagebrush in the subdivision was burning so intensely that the shrubs put off 10-to-15-foot flames. The fire was also racing through the crowns of lodgepole pine.

“In some areas the fire seemed to be at ground level,” White said. “In other areas it was in the canopy and throwing off a lot of heat.”

The East Troublesome fire as it tore through the Trail Creek Estates subdivision on Oct. 21, 2020. (Brian White, Grand Fire Protection District)

The operation quickly moved from structure protection to evacuation. Crew gave up on using their fire engines to battle the flames and instead started using them to get people out of the fire’s path.

To save threatened plants and animals, restore habitat on farms, ranches and other working lands — The Conversation #ActOnClimate


Planting strips of native prairie grasses on a farm in Iowa provides habitat for pollinators and protects soil and water.
Omar de Kok-Mercado/Iowa State University, CC BY-ND

Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi, Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro; Claire Kremen, University of British Columbia; Erle C. Ellis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Sandra Díaz, Universidad de Córdoba (Argentina)

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The big idea

Restoring native habitats to at least 20% of the world’s land currently being used by humans for farming, ranching and forestry is necessary to protect biodiversity and slow species loss, according to a newly published study conducted by a team of environmental scientists including us. Our analysis found that this can be done in ways that minimize trade-offs and could even make farms more productive by helping to control pests, enhancing crop pollination and preventing losses of nutrients and water from soil. These working landscapes can still be grazed, mowed, harvested or burned, as long as these activities sustain or restore native species diversity.

So-called “zero-net-loss policies” would prevent any further destruction or conversion of wild lands on developed property. There are creative and experimental options for the most heavily cultivated regions, such as incorporating strips of prairie plants into crop fields across the U.S. Midwest or planting flower strips to restore pollinators in Switzerland.

Only 38% of the 82 countries we reviewed have national laws requiring native habitat on working lands. Most were in Europe and required that just 5% be kept wild. In many countries only forest habitats are regulated, while grasslands and other highly threatened landscapes are ignored. These decisions are driven by politics, economics and cultural values, but overall they lack clear scientific guidelines.

Ranch land with ponds
Through the establishment of a conservation bank on the Sparling Ranch in California, more than 2,000 acres of valuable habitat for tiger salamanders and red-legged frogs will be protected, including 14 breeding ponds, while the Sparling family continues to raise and graze cattle on their land.
Steve Rottenborn, USFWS/Flickr

Why it matters

Restoring habitat creates homes for wildlife, but it also contributes to human well-being and supports all life on Earth. Native vegetation prevents erosion and purifies the water we drink and the air we breathe. It sequesters carbon, mitigating climate change, and acts as a buffer against flooding, landslides and storms. The wildlife species that move in may pollinate crops or control pests.

For more than a century, conservationists have worked to save threatened species by protecting them within large national parks and refuges. This clearly hasn’t been enough: The Earth is losing plants and animals at more than 100 times the normal rate, in what some scientists believe is the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event.

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Under the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty ratified by 196 nations, countries have pledged to conserve 17% of the planet’s land area in protected zones by 2020. So far, they have failed to meet that target. Now many conservationists are proposing an expanded effort that would conserve as much as 30% of land by 2030, and as much as half by 2050. Where will all this land come from?

With global land use expanding and becoming more intensive and dominated by monocultures, there is an urgent need to conserve and restore native species outside of protected areas – within landscapes managed for people.

Map of NYC water supply system
Forests in upstate New York protect and filter New York City’s drinking water supply. The forests are managed and monitored to ensure water quality; they also provide habitat for wildlife and recreation opportunities.
NYDEC

What’s next

Though the benefits are many and there are numerous successful restoration models to draw upon, wild habitats continue to be degraded, razed and eliminated.

Preventing, stopping and reversing the degradation of ecosystems is also an essential strategy for meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and commitments for the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that launches next year.

Critical policy opportunities are just ahead. Europeans are now deciding how much agricultural land to devote to “landscape and habitat features.” New conservation targets will be part of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework negotiated at next spring’s 15th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Its ambitious global vision is nothing less than “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.The Conversation

Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi, Professor and Director, Institute for Research in Natural Resources, Agroecology and Rural Development, Universidad Nacional de Rio Negro; Claire Kremen, Professor of Resources, Environment and Sustainability and Professor of Zoology, University of British Columbia; Erle C. Ellis, Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Sandra Díaz, Professor of Community and Ecosystem Ecology, Universidad de Córdoba (Argentina)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.