Before I get into the question of whether the wing-nuts in Colorado Springs made a horrible wildfire situation worse than it needed to be, I want to thank the unbelievable skill and efforts of the thousands of Federal Employees who rushed to the nightmare conditions that now exists in Colorado.
I live about 20 miles to the NW of the second biggest fire ever to happen in Colorado. It's been burning for more than 2 weeks. A Federal incident team came in on the second day and did a remarkable job of fighting this fire.
If you've never experienced an uncontrolled forest fire in Global warming induced historic drought conditions, may you never ever have such an experience. It's a horrible situation that is almost impossible to fight.
This is a picture I took from my back door of the smoke rising 20,000 feet into the air from the fire that is 20 miles away.
This picture was taken last Saturday, 1 day after the fire swept through 57 homes. Today, they have control of this monster fire, thanks to those Federal employees working closely with State and local employees.
I was amazed at the professionalism and the skill of the Federal incident team that came in to attack these fires. They brought in helicopters and planes, and bulldozers and nearly 2000 firefighters and worked as part of a team with county and local people and systematically attacked this fire under horrible conditions until they got control. And since this fire was creeping my way, I want to say THANK YOU!
And now the Colorado tragedy has extended to the outskirts of Boulder and last night swept into the Northwestern neighborhoods of Colorado Springs. These are fires of epic proportions and my deepest sympathy goes out to all the families that are suffering.
BUT , As I was watching the tragedy unfold in Colorado Springs last night, I couldn't but help to stop and think about the severe budget cuts the city underwent, including cutting firefighters, because they are so anti-tax the people voted down a tax increase. And then when someone at a press conference started arguing whether the "FEDS" should be in charge or the "locals", I hit the roof! While their city was burning, they had the guts to bring up their right-wing anti-government bull shit when hundreds of U.S. forest service employees were putting their lives on the line to save their damn wing nut houses.
A picture from last night, courtesy the Denver post.
Colorado Springs is almost the poster child for right-wing nuttism. A couple of years ago when their budget was in trouble, they voted not to raise taxes and forced the city to go through some of the worst austerity of any city in the country. Here's what the Denver Post had to say about their budget cuts.
This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric.As I watched the city burning last night, playing in my mind was the thought of how many families would not have lost their homes had the right wingers of Colorado Springs decided that government isn't evil and to have a fully funded police and fire department might very well be very important some day. And let me add, the officials of Colorado Springs and El Paso county couldn't have been more happy to see the Governor and the Federal representatives offer any help they could and to fully cooperate in helping fight the fires.
More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.
And if you're not familiar with Colorado, the contrast between Boulder and Colorado Springs couldn't be any bigger. A fire that started a few miles west of Boulder, from a lighting strike, was spreading rapidly up the back slope of the Flatiron cliffs that boarder the city. While some people in Colorado Springs were asking suspicious questions about the Federal Government being involved with their city, the officials of Boulder were explaining how lucky they were to have a Type 1 incident team very close by who could immediately start coordinating the effort to fight the fire.
We should all keep in mind that the Austerity that Mitt Romney and the Tea Party have planned for America, isn't just some academic exercise in economics, it has real consequences. And those consequences couldn't be more on display than they are now in Colorado. One city, full of Tea Partiers, openly questions the participation of the federal government in city affairs as the city is burning in the background, while another city, where community has true meaning, openly welcomes with enormous appreciation the help that government can give in difficult times. Today, Colorado is demonstrating the very need and purpose of, groups of organized people working together to help each other in times of need, or what we commonly call, government.
And for the global warming denialists out there, here is a list of the 35 largest fires in Colorado history. Notice how many have happened in the last 10 years!
1. 2002 Hayman – 137,760 acres; 2,500 firefighters; firefighting cost $39 million; five firefighter deaths in transit.
2. 2012 High Park Fire, Larimer County – IN PROGRESS 87,250 acres; 1,923 firefighters; firefighting cost $29.6 million.
3. 2002 Missionary Ridge, near Durango - 71,739 acres; firefighting cost $40 million; one firefighter death after tree fall.
4. 2012 Last Chance grassland, eastern Colorado -- 44,000 acres;
5. 2002 Trinidad Complex (Spring, Fisher/James John fires) - 25,000- 33,000 acres; firefighting cost over $2.18 million.
6. 2002 Mount Zirkel complex, near Steamboat - 31,016 acres; all costs equal at least $13.3 million.
7. 1879 Lime Creek, San Juan National Forest - 26,000 acres.
8. 2012 Heartstrong, Yuma County - 24,000 acres; firefighting cost unknown.
9. 2000 Bircher, near Mesa Verde - 23,607 acres; firefighting cost $5 million.
10. 2012 Little Sand, Pagosa Springs, Hinsdale County – IN PROGRESS 21,616 acres; 181 firefighters; firefighting cost $1.25 million.
11. 2002 Big Fish, near Steamboat - 17,056 acres; firefighting cost unknown, as allowed to burn out in remote area.
12. 2002 Burn Canyon, near Norwood - 16,000 acres; firefighting cost unknown.
13. 2002 Coal Seam, near Glenwood Springs - 12,200 acres; firefighting cost $7.25 million.
14. 1996 Buffalo Creek, Jefferson County - 12,000 acres; firefighting cost $1.5 to $4 million.
15. 2002 Spring Creek, near New Castle - 11,000 acres; firefighting cost $7 million.
16. 2000 Hi Meadow wildfire - 10,800 acres; 791 firefighters; firefighting cost $4.5 million.
17. 2000 Bobcat fire, Larimer County - 10,559 acres; 1,075 firefighters; firefighting cost, $3.3 million.
18. 2012 Weber fire, Mancos, Montezuma County - 8,300 acres;
19. 2002 Million, near South Fork - 9,346 acres; firefighting cost $9.8 million.
20. 2012 Hewlett, near Ft. Collins - 7,685 acres; firefighting cost $2.9 million to date.
21. 2010 Fourmile Canyon fire - 6,388 acres; 1,000 firefighters; firefighting cost $10 million.
22. 2012 Sunrise Mine fire, near Gateway - 6,017 acres to date; firefighting cost to date $1.2 million.
23. 2000 Pony, Mesa Verde - 5,250 acres; firefighting cost unknown.
24. 2012 Waldo Canyon, Manitou Springs - IN PROGRESS 5,168 acres; 600 firefighters; firefighting cost unknown.
25. 2002 Bear, near Dinosaur National Monument - 4,800 acres; firefighting cost $1 million.
26. 2002 Iron Mountain - 4,436 acres; 300 firefighters; firefighting cost over $1.2 million.
27. 2002 Big Elk, near Estes Park - 4,413 acres; firefighting cost $4 million; three firefighter deaths.
28. 2012 Lower North Fork, near Conifer - 4,500 acres; firefighting cost unknown; three civilian deaths.
29. 2002 Schoonover, Douglas County - 3,860 acres; firefighting cost $2.4 million.
30. 2003 Overland, Boulder county – 3,500 acres.
31. 2010 Crystal, Larimer County - 3,000 acres; firefighting cost $3 million.
32. 2002 Snaking, near Bailey - 2,590 acres; firefighting cost $2.6 million.
33. 1990 Olde Stage, Boulder county - 2,210 acres; $300,000-$400,000.
34. 1994 Storm King Mountain/South Canyon fire, 2,000 acres (14 firefighter deaths); firefighting costs $400,000.
35. 1989 Black Tiger Gulch - est. 2,086 acres; firefighting cost $1 million.
Sources: National Interagency Fire Center; Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association; U.S. Forest Service; Colorado State Forest Service; Colorado Division Emergency Management; Jeff Mitton, University of Colorado, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.