Wildfires ravage Colorado, several surrounding states
By Kylene Scott
If the most recent crop progress and condition report from the Colorado Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service is any indication of the kind of year Colorado is having, it's a wonder why there haven't been more wildfires than there have been. Other surrounding states are in the same boat.
In the June 25 report, the first paragraph paints a not-so-pretty picture: Hot, windy, and dry conditions prevailed across Colorado. The state experienced little to no precipitation the previous week with record high temperatures reported in several areas. Wheat harvest progressed rapidly but the weather has stressed several dryland crops. Range conditions continue to deteriorate across much of the state due to limited moisture.
Also in the report, topsoil and subsoil moisture levels are mostly rated in either short or very short condition. In 2011, for the same week it was quite the opposite. Most soils at that time were rated at adequate or even surplus.
Producers across the state are relocating or reducing their livestock numbers due to the poor condition of pastureland. Death losses for cattle and sheep were average. Stored feed supplies were rated average to short for this time of year.
Many other crop progress reports said the same thing; hot and dry weather was causing havoc on crops and livestock. Some cattle producers were already facing having to feed livestock through the summer months. In other areas, drought was hindering crop progress.
There are currently a number of large fires burning in the West--Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and New Mexico. One of the most recent, the Waldo Canyon fire, as of June 27 has burned 15,517 acres in the Pike National Forest, in El Paso County, Colo. This fire is located near many attractions in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas. It has also forced evacuation of 32,000 residents and the closure of the U.S. Air Force Academy. As of June 27, only 5 percent of the Waldo Canyon fire is contained. Other areas are under pre-evacuation orders.
Another fire, the High Park fire, began by lighting strike, June 9 and has burned some 87,284 acres and remains only 65 percent contained according to the reports from the National Incident Information Center at www.inciweb.org. This fire is located approximately 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo.
In Kansas, crews June 27 continued battling wildfires that have burned hundreds of acres in northwest Kansas, where triple-digit temperatures and parched fields have left the area vulnerable to quick-spreading flames, according to an Associated Press report.
Fire departments from neighboring Colorado and Nebraska were called in June 26 to help fight at least two wildfires outside Oberlin, located in far northwest Kansas along the Nebraska border. Temperatures in the area were forecast to be 113 June 27 and stay that way through the remainder of the week.
Kansas Division of Emergency Management spokeswoman Sharon Watson said in an email June 27 that Decatur County reported that the fire burned about 5,000 acres. No homes were destroyed, she said.
Decatur County, where Oberlin is located, is in a moderate to severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. One of that area's wildfires apparently started June 26 when flames from an overheated car spread to a nearby field.
Dan and Greg Grafel were among area farmers who helped fight the fire as it pushed north, fueled by high winds.
"If it was stubble or grass, it burned it. It's very, very dry," Dan Grafel said. "Everybody in the whole area was up there," Grafel said. "It didn't matter if you were a firefighter."
Those in the path of the wildfires need to be aware, and take necessary precautions and follow evacuation orders. More information about changes in wildfire statuses and evacuations in Colorado can be found on the Colorado Division of Emergency Management website, www.coemergency.com.
The Colorado State Fair is prepared to house people, livestock, and pets that have been displaced by the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"We communicated with the Red Cross on Tuesday (June 26) about this devastating fire and how the Colorado State Fair could help; we have offered our 4H and FFA dormitories for those who have been evacuated and our fairgrounds to house pets and livestock," said General Manager Chris Wiseman. "This fire will have far-reaching and long-lasting effects; it is important for Coloradans to come together and work through this as a unified community and the Colorado State Fair is committed to doing our part."
The Colorado State Fair asks that residents work through the coordinated efforts of the Red Cross instead of contacting the Fair directly: Red Cross, 719-632-3563 or www.redcross.org.
Kylene Scott can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.