Guest column: Fuel mitigation is the only way to combat forest fires |

Guest column: Fuel mitigation is the only way to combat forest fires

The East Troublesome Fire has been over for weeks now but its effects will be ongoing for years.

Much has been reported in the newspapers, online and in the media. Many good points have been made, charities given to those who lost homes, insurance claims submitted and plans for the future decided.

Some folks are going to leave. These are people who have been our friends or acquaintances. We will hate to see them go, but we can’t really blame them; they need to act in their own best interests.

The firestorm that happened on Oct. 21 was unusual in its speed and intensity. The scientists will be studying it for a long time. One firefighter told me he had never seen anything like it before, and he’d seen a lot of conflagrations.

The authorities, especially the firefighters, are to be commended. Grand Lake and the county came together with a lot of outside help. Lessons have been learned that may help again in the future, and hopefully any finger pointing will be kept to a minimum.

What the fire did to people near it could be compared to the “fog of war” where lines of communication are cut off and events happen very quickly. Misinformation reigns supreme during such a crisis, and even those on the scene can get it wrong due to panic, adrenaline, grief and outright fear. Some folks were told that their house were still there when they weren’t. The lucky ones, like myself, were told that their house burnt down when it hadn’t.

Many locals knew this place had to burn someday, and we were willing to take the risk of staying put. Anyone who lives in the Western mountains should be aware of this. After over 100 years of fire suppression, this place is loaded to the max with fuel.

My suggestion is simply this: Fuel reduction is our last hope for saving towns, houses, and public lands. There is much work to be done, and the best place to start is your immediate area. You should thank your lucky stars when you hear a chainsaw in your neck of the woods or see hard working folks burning slash when the snow is on the ground, chipping it or taking some trees to the mill.

It is dangerous, hard work. The joke among some of the firefighters during the Yellowstone fires was: “We should have been loggers.”

It’s that or the scorched earth and resulting erosion and watershed damage I am seeing out my backdoor. Sensible thinning would help.

Bruce Knight is a longtime resident of Grand Lake.

The East Troublesome Fire is seen from Cottonwood Pass looking north on Oct. 21 as the fire ripped across Grand County.
Courtesy Andrew Lussie / US Forest Service

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