Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The West is on fire


Yesterday, a haze of smoke hung over Cheyenne, even though we're probably about 60-70 miles from the nearest raging wildfire. The sunsets are blood orange red. The news reporters post satellite photos of the plumes of smoke coming off the mountains, blowing eastward. The National Weather Service issued a special statement about the smoke, and the city warned against exercising outdoors. 

Even though I’m not particularly sensitive, yesterday I felt my eyes and lungs burn at times. I chose to do my ride inside at the YMCA instead of out on the roads in the haze.

According to InciWeb this morning, there are 141,783 acres – 221.5 square miles -- of active wildfires just in Wyoming, with many more fires burning throughout the state. This is an area nearly the size of Chicago.
The fires in Wyoming understandably don’t get as much national news as the fires threatening more populous areas like Colorado Springs, but there are still many in those mountains at risk of losing their homes and dreams. I’ve been watching the news on the Arapaho fire closely as it’s far too close to a place I love and where I know two wonderful people who run a bed and breakfast. Over in the Snowy Range, Woods Landing has been evacuated, the fire threatening, but not destroying, its historic bar/restaurant and dance hall.

Out here, we’ve known the West would go kawoosh at some point. For years, we’ve seen the beetle kill march down the mountainsides, turning green to reddish brown. It’s been heartbreaking, and we’ve known it was dangerous. We knew it would happen sometime. This must be the year.

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