6:00am

Wed April 10, 2013
Wildfires

Are December Wildfires A ‘New Normal’ For Colorado? CSU Researchers Debate

Compared to 40 years ago, Colorado’s fire season is about 75 days longer.

The extended season is resulting in events like the Fern Lake Fire, which continues to smolder in a remote area of Rocky Mountain National Park. The fire started in October, and park managers are taking a long term management strategy.

The last time the Fern Lake area saw fire was more than 800 years ago. That’s according to Colorado State University professor of geography Jason Sibold, who studies fire history.

“This is clearly indicating that something has changed and something has shifted,” says Sibold. “While we can’t take one event to the bank and say ‘this is clear evidence,’ it sure is an interesting case study to have a forest fire burning in December.”

In order to examine this “new normal” concept, Sibold has assembled a panel of Colorado State University researchers to discuss the topic Wednesday. The panel is hosted by CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and is part of its “Managing the Planet” speaker series.

“I’m not pushing for any solution," says Sibold. "But I believe we’re headed in a direction where 2012 is going to become more and more common. And that’s a scary proposition.”

Looking ahead to the 2013 season, it's difficult to tell exactly how active the wildfire season will be in Colorado. A report by the National Interagency Fire Center predicts that 2013 will bring warmer and drier conditions to the Rocky Mountains in June with normal fire potential expected May to early July.