NewsJuly 12, 2012

Colorado's 'Most Destructive' Fire Now Fully Contained

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Alex Kasdin

By Alex Kasdin

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that the Waldo Canyon fire, the “most destructive” fire ever to rip through Colorado, was 100 percent contained. This does not mean that every blaze of the fire has been extinguished but means the fire’s “boundaries are fully under control.” A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, Pat Collrin, said that some parts of the Waldo Canyon fire could continue to “burn until fall.”

However, the smoke has cleared enough to inventory the unparalleled damage. After burning for 17 days, the fire consumed nearly 29 square miles in Colorado, or 18,247 acres. It left 347 homes charred and killed two people. In total, the damage from the fire carried a price tag of about $15 million. Additionally, it cost between $15 and $20 million to bring the fire under control, the Times reported.

The sun—and good fortune—shined on a  lone house spared from the destruction of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado.Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Though the destruction the Waldo Canyon fire caused was unprecedented in Colorado’s history, it was not its biggest fire. That title goes to the High Park Fire, which began earlier in June and scorched 136 miles, many of which were in the Roosevelt National Forest, before it was fully contained.

Although the danger from the Waldo Canyon’s flames has subsided, officials now fear the flooding and mudslides that could follow the fires. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that the burnt soil can no longer absorb water effectively. Troy Nelsen, the commander of the firefighters battling the blaze, told the Gazette, “If we get a slow, steady rain that allows the soil to absorb it, we’re going to be OK. If we get a heavy rain, we’re going to get a bit of soil movement.”

“Super-fires” like the Waldo Canyon fire may only become more common as climate change lengthens the fire season with its warmer temperatures, which lead to drier conditions. Fires are also only starting to burn the brush and leaves that have accumulated in Western forests because smaller fires were quickly put out in the 20th  century, the LA Times said.