bpko wrote:Wildfires are very important, but it becomes a hazard when you have overpopulated forests such as ours.
Hundreds of years ago, the forests to the west didn't look as they do today. They were sparsely populated, and because of this, wildfires generally only burned low-lying shrubs and brush, and the occasional young and vulnerable sapling. Large, adult trees rarely ignited because of the magnitude of heat and energy it takes to blaze an adult tree.
Because of overpopulation and close vicinity of adult trees, that is one reason why we get large crown fires.
No disagreement on the level of hazard, albeit to firefighters, not the ecosystem. If you look at the data, ponderosa pine trees began migrating into that area of Poudre Canyon around the 1500s (based on the oldest trees in plots). They were most likely there much earlier. Ponderosa pine forests along the Front Range are characterized by a mixed-severity fire regime (low intensity surface fires, as well as isolated and group torching, and stand-replacing fire). If you want to speak of wildfires that “generally only burned low-lying shrubs and brush, and the occasional young and vulnerable sapling”, go down to Arizona. For my capstone forestry/fire science project at CSU, my group was the only one that correctly identified this exact area as having a mixed-severity regime.
We have overpopulated forests because of fire suppression. As you mention, trees in the area were normally more spaced out and there were larger areas of shrubs and grass. Stand replacement and group torching created those gaps. Since it’s a mixed-severity regime, fires in the area of that magnitude and characteristics of isolated/group torching and stand replacement are not of the norm. As I stated earlier, it’s a good area to burn because of the vast expanse between communities where the fire is currently burning. Historically, fires in the 10s of thousands of acres would’ve burned over such an area.
Hopefully no one loses their house, but don’t pretend that fire is a bad thing or that this is an abnormal or ecologically destructive event.