Smokey the Bear says “No thank you”



A structure burning on Lightner Creek Road west of Durango, Colo., on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, quickly spread into the surrounding forest, creating the Lightner Creek Fire and burning an estimated 100 acres. (AP Photo/Durango Herald,Jerry McBride)

Havens Webster, Reporter

In early April, La Plata County watched while two wildland fires got out of control near Elmore’s Corner. These fires took the whole fire department to fight, which has caused the National Weather Service to issue the first red flag warning of the season.

    Durango has had a fairly dry winter this year, which, because of the lack of moisture, will make for a relatively high chance of fires this summer.

    “This [dry winter] is trouble for ecosystems that are based along those rivers and streams, not to mention the economies that are based on said rivers and streams” said Jonathan Harvey, the Assistant Professor of Geosciences at Fort Lewis College.

    Harvey stated that he thinks the Animas river will continue to flow well below normal throughout the summer, because the chance of rain for April, May, and June is looking unlikely. Dry conditions will affect the river rafting companies of Durango, putting a damper on their amount of customers.  

    “The fires were not freak accidents – in order for a fire to start and grow out of control like those did, the conditions have to be right for it,” said Harvey.

    Harvey’s quote refers to the two fires that got out of control on April 2nd, and the weather conditions that we have been experiencing lately are exactly what fires feed off of.  

    The “perfect conditions” that Harvey refers to are high winds, low humidity, and dry grasses, which all lead to fires.

    “This is one of the driest summers yet, like the summers of 2012 and 2013,” said Sarah Nashleanas, a biology a teacher at DHS.

    Summer will be very hot and dry in Durango this year, so many precautions should be taken, such as decreasing the amount of controlled fires, preserving water, and taking extra care in general. There is no moisture in the soil, therefore no water is protecting the land from fires.

    In southwestern Colorado, areas under 8,000 feet are in danger of fires because of high winds, 12 to 17 mph, and relative humidity, 10 to 15 percent. The impact that the fires cause will be difficult or impossible to control due to fast spreading, with strong winds pushing the fires onto the dry grasses.  

    “[Durango is] in a drought now so there definitely will be fires…it all depends on how aware our community is” said Sasha Creeden, a biology teacher at DHS.

    There is uncertainty about what will happen this summer, but people are going to have to be very careful. All of these “perfect conditions” increase the chances of wildfires by a mile, but with specific restrictions and careful controlled burns, the county will stay safe.