Colorado’s Historic Wildfire Season and The Pine Beetle
“Three of the largest wildfires on record in the state have burned this year, and they’ve preyed on forests hard-hit by beetle infestations.” -Justine Calma, The Verge
Calma, J. (2020, October 27). Wildfires tear through Colorado’s beetle-bitten forests. The Verge. Retrieved From https://www.theverge.com/2020/10/27/21537195/colorado-wildfires-beetle-infestations-forests-east-troublesome
Colorado has experienced its three largest wildfires on record this year alone and this trend does not seem to be slowing down. Earlier in the summer, the Pine Gulch Fire ignited north of Grand Junction and burned more than 139,000 acres. Not too long after, the Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado began its path of destruction and has burned more than 207,000 acres to date with time to grow even still. That leaves the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County. Arguably the most impressive fire of the summer, the East Troublesome has scorched more than 193,000 acres in less than two weeks making it second only to Cameron Peak. Many have blamed these record-breaking fires on the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, but research shows the beetle plays a negligible role in this year’s historic fire season. The dead and downed timber left over from the beetle-killed trees surely does not help slow the growth of the fires, but studies show that explosive fire seasons are more closely related to climate change. Above normal temperatures and lack of moisture associated with climate change have fueled mega-fires in the American West. The most destructive type of wildfire is called a Crown Fire and refers to the type of blaze that moves at a high rate of speed burning the forest canopy. Pine beetle-killed forests actually slow the spread of crown fires with their lack of lofted fuels. What they do aid, however, is surface fire spread with abundant dead and downed fuels. For more in-depth information on wildfires and the pine beetle give the above-posted article a read.