Colorado Blaze Conjures Memories of Alberta Wildfire

Thursday, June 27, 2013

With massive wildfires that have consumed hundreds of homes in Colorado, this has no doubt triggered some unpleasant reminders of what happened this past May in Alberta, as a substantial amount of acreage burned as a result of the blaze. Dozens of Alberta home insurance claims were filed as well.

Memories of Wildfires in AlbertaHowever, some climate experts believe that more regular wildfire activity may be the new normal. That's according to Frederick Smith, a Colorado University professor and head of the Warner College of Natural Resources' Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship.

"You have the perfect storm for these sorts of events that are catastrophic and will have these huge consequences," Smith told the Denver Post.

He added that legislators have to do more than they're doing to address the issue, as the amount of money and resources that are spent fighting these fires aren't sustainable. In addition, because people have to fight these fires, it risks the very survival of the state's best and brightest.

While Albertans are likely all too familiar with the wildfire that occurred in May, they may not be as informed about the one in Colorado which reports say is between 75 and 80 percent contained. Even though the Centennial State has seen its fair share of wildfires, the amount of damage and home insurance losses that have resulted make it the most expensive wildfire season in the state's history, when combining it with the Waldo Canyon blaze from last year. The Denver Post notes that the U.S. Forest Service has spent nearly $60 million on resources to get the respective fires under control.

Flames Demolish 500 Colorado Homes

Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. The numbers are constantly updating, but reports indicate that at least 500 residences have been consumed by the wildfire, which officials have yet to determine how it started. The blaze is believed to be spread over 22 square miles near Colorado Springs.

According to statistics from the Government of Canada, about 8,000 wildfires take place in Canada each year, burning an estimated 2.5 million hectares. There are variety of reasons why wildfires start - many of them related to human error. In fact, 55 percent of all fires are human-caused. However, the other half are due to lightning strikes. Due to the fact that these often occur in clusters, lightning is typically responsible for 80 percent of the total area that's burned.

With the proper preparation, Canadians can ready themselves for the potential of being affected by a wildfire. For example, government officials recommend removing all fire hazards that immediately surround a home, especially those that are a natural part of the ground, such as branches and leaves. These serve as fire accelerants. It's also smart to go over some fire safety drills in the event of having to abandon the home.

If wildfire is approaching the home and an evacuation order hasn't been issued, it's advised that homeowners call 911 immediately to alert safety responders of the situation. Should the wildfire still be at a distance and it's safe to do so, close all the windows and doors to the house as well as other openings - like vents - as this is one of the ways in which to limit the fire damage that may result. Outside the home, check to make sure that fuel sources like propane and natural gas are turned off and at a distance from standing structures like the home itself or a garage.