Firefighters work plumes and politicians to battle Colorado wildfires

Sunshine Canyon Fire, Boulder, Colo., March 19, 2017. (Seth Frankel via AP)

Sunshine Canyon Fire, Boulder, Colo., March 19, 2017. (Seth Frankel via AP)

Firefighters, with the aid of some non-windy weather, managed by Monday afternoon to almost fully contain the Sunshine Canyon Fire that blazed through forest just west of Boulder on Sunday. On Monday night, it was still smoldering above the city.

When the fire ignited and spread, Boulder was experiencing a record-setting 78 degree day in a month that has seen only 0.05 inches of precipitation, or 2.14 inches short of the historic average for the month.

The Sunshine Canyon fire burned 76 acres and forced authorities to evacuate 420 homes. It also marked just another incident in the state fire season that no longer has any start or end.

Colorado firefighters are working on the ground and in the halls of officialdom to head off further destruction.

In January, some of them visited the offices of Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to discuss “the impacts of climate change on the shifting fire regime in Colorado and proposed solutions,” according to the Unacceptable Risk group that put out the 2015 documentary of the same name. The firefighters delivered a letter urging the governor to “allocate adequate funds to prevent and manage wildfires and to accelerate clean, renewable energy production.”

The governor has certainly made efforts. He has supported clean energy plans over sometimes fierce opposition at the Capitol and has advocated for and signed legislation that upgraded controlled burn procedures, expanded firefighting and wildfire detection equipment and that funded studies on forest health and fire insurance.

This legislative session has seen state lawmakers support research on developing forest-managing and carbon-capturing biochar and urge Congress to fund wildfire responses. They have also introduced bills to consolidate forest health grant programs and study drone use in fire fighting and prevention.

The bills are moving well through the building. Sooner is better.

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