Too close for comfort?
June 8, 2011
The Arizona fire you wrote about in Tuesday’s paper has a name: It is called the Wallow Fire. Its name is derived from the area where it supposedly started: the Elk Wallow Wilderness Area.
The winds that have brought the smoke to our area were not the normal prevailing winds for here. Normally when we get smoke from wildfires it is from the north or west. But sometimes Mother Nature has her own way of doing things. And that certainly is true within the wildfire arena.
This fire, which started on the afternoon of May 29, burned a few thousand acres in the wilderness for a few days, than added about 5,000 acres on the first of June before really picking up a head of steam and roaring out of the wilderness, forcing numerous communities to evacuate while burning an additional 150,000 acres the next three days.
As I write this the Wallow Fire is now close to a quarter-million acres, capable of moving up to 8 miles in a day, throwing firebrands over 3 miles ahead of itself starting numerous spot fires in its path.
Would this fire have been managed different in its early stages if it were not wilderness? That will be a question that eventually is going to have to be answered by the fire managers. They usually have some good explanations and reasons for what they do.
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It is quite dry in the region and the area where the fire started was quite remote. But for now those questions will have to take a back seat while the suppression effort goes on – for the dragon has come to life.
Again, let me say, I am not opposed to wilderness per se; what I am opposed to is bringing wilderness to the communities’ edge. I feel it puts the community at risk for some catastrophic wildfire event down the road.
I recognized the popularity of the Hidden Gems movement within the Aspen community. It is for this reason that I pass my knowledge of wildfire, which comes from close to 40 years of various involvement within the fire suppression community, to you, the Hidden Gems Supporters. It is intended to assist you in your discussions to make a knowledgeable assessment and evaluation of what you are doing when you bring this wilderness extension to a rocks throw of Aspen by adding the proposed Smuggler/Hunter area to the Hidden Gems.