Thu July 26, 2012

Four Mile Fire Report Draws Lessons For 2012

The US Forest Service has released its final report on the 2010 Four Mile Canyon fire that destroyed 169 homes west of Boulder.

The 18-month-in-the making study first requested by Sen. Mark Udall focuses on the Boulder fire but draws conclusions relevant to similar destructive blazes this year along the Front Range. 

Its lead author, Russell Graham, a research forester at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Idaho, says a main takeaways is that Coloradans need to be better prepared for large, destructive wildfires.

"The Four Mile Canyon Fire, now the High Park Fire, the Lower North Fork Fire, you have a major fire burning on the Front Range of Colorado every two years," Graham says.  "It’s not just when it will burn, it’s going to be where it will burn."

In the Four Mile Canyon area, Graham’s team found that fuel treatments like thinning projects prior to the fire were effective in some areas. But scientists also concluded that surface fuels in and around many of the hardest hit mountain neighborhoods had not been treated.  That largely contributed to the extent of the destruction, the report said. 

Until this summer, the Four Mile fire that sparked on Labor Day, 2010, had been Colorado's most destructive and expensive wildfire.