High Park Wildfire becomes Colorado's most destructive with 181 homes lost

June 17, 2012, 7:47 am
By Robert Weller
Aspen Business Journal
LARMIER COUNTY—The High Park wildfire west of Canyon has become the state’s most costly in homes lost, 181, Larimer County sheriff spokeswoman Julie M. Berney said Saturday.
The lightning-caused fire also claimed one life and was still burning over 54,000 acres Saturday.
The second-most destructive in homes lost was the Fourmile Canyon in 2010 near Boulder with took 169 homes, although it covered less than 7,000 acres.
The biggest wildfire in area was the Hayman blaze of 2002, covering more than 138,000 acres. It was in a much less densely population area, and the loss in homes was 133.

   GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. _ Flames trapped firefighters battling a fierce wildfire on Wednesday, killing at least 14.
   About 50 firefighters were trapped and overcome by flames as they fought the 500-acre (200-hectare) fire on Storm King Mountain west of here, said Garfield County Undersheriff Levy Burris.
   The Weather Service had warned deadly winds could cause the fire to erupt, but somehow the message didn't reach everyone. And some of the victims, from Oregon, were not familiar with the vegetation and how readily it burned.


    PINE JUNCTION, Colo. _ Down the mountain road, freshly scrawled signs thank firefighters "for saving our dreams." Patsy and Steve Kruzek have only memories. "This place may be beautiful again, but not in my lifetime," said Patsy, standing outside the stone basement of what had been a three-story home. It was all that was left of a 35-acre holding probably worth $350,000.
    Smoke tufted up next to the statue of a howling coyote, who almost seemed to be feeling the couple's pain.

    PERRY PARK RANCH - Don Korinek knew that devastating
wildfires made it dangerous to live among stands of ponderosa pine,
Douglas fir and Gambel oak.
    "I didn't care. I love this place," Korinek recalled three
years after buying his retirement home adjacent to the Pike
National Forest.
    So Korinek and his neighbors acted to protect their homes from
fire without destroying the natural beauty, including spectacular
red rock formations, that drew them here. Last year they had a near
escape when wildfire burned to within three miles.

AGUILAR, Colo. - Wind-whipped wildfires destroyed at least five houses in southern Colorado and forced the evacuation of several hundred residents Sunday, authorities said. 
Two fires had burned over 5,400 acres in Huerfano and Las Animas counties, not far from the New Mexico line. One of them had started as a controlled burn earlier in the week that flared up again despite efforts to keep it down. 
 Wind gusting up to 50 mph prevented authorities from using airplanes to drop slurry on the fires, said Pam Martinez of the Huerfano County Sheriff's office.

           Drake, Colo. _ Blowtorch winds gusting to 60 mph whipped up two wildfires and sent flames racing, forcing firefighters to retreat and riving more people from their homes.
           One blaze was burning just east of Rocky Mountain National Park. The other was 35 miles southwest of Denver, near Pike National Forest.

           "I think the worst is over," said fire information officer Bob Sturdivant. "Humidity is up. The fire behavior won't be as erratic as it has been. The winds will die down tomorrow. We will have quite an air show."

         Study Supports Prescribed Burns

         Denver – A new study on the largest wildfire in Colorado history is adding to the fierce debate over President Bush’s plan to speed up logging projects and controlled burns to reduce the risk of catastrophic blazes.

        The exhaustsive Forest Service study found that damage done by last year’s 138,000-acre Hayman fire southwest of Denver was less in one area where a large tree-thinning project had been completed.

          Oregon Fire Team Back In Colorado

          DRAKE, Colo. -- Tony Johnson beat the deadly blaze up Storm King Mountain in 1994, but 14 other firefighters that day didn't, including his brother.
Last week, the Prineville Hot Shots were back up in the Colorado woods, facing what Johnson says is probably their 100th fire since they came down from that mountain.
         The lessons learned about fighting that wildfire have made it safer for crews who battle blazes across the West, firefighters say.
      ``We don't go out there to take chances,'' said Norma May, a member of the Prineville, Ore.,team.

         Defending Against Wildfires A Hot Business

       PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo.  _ Tammy Tyner has one of the hottest businesses in southwestern Colorado.

       From a base in Durango, her company, Timber Tech West, helps homeowners and developers by thinning trees, removing brush and offering plans and tips to safeguard mountain homes and building sites from wildfires. Its business is known as wildfire mitigation.

       ``When we started in 1997, the public wasn't very aware or concerned. Now we have more business than we can handle,'' Tyner said.

Wildfire mitigation companies are needed to reduce wildfire risk in the wooded foothills of Colorado and other Western cities, U.S. Forest Service and state forester's office representatives say. Hundreds of houses have already been lost to Western wildfires over the past three years.

Although dozens of contractors thin brush and trees among other services, the number of companies that specialize in wildfire mitigation is much smaller.