Warning: Serious drought danger ahead

No doubt a few folks will take exception to Gov. John Hickelooper’s edict issued last week to ban private fireworks and open burning. Some will probably ignore it.

That’s unfortunate because, as everyone should understand by now, 2012 is not just a dry year. We’re in the midst of an extreme drought that rivals 2002.

There aren’t as many wildfires burning right now as there were at this piont in 2002, but the High Park fire near Fort Collins, now the third largest in the state’s history, has already destroyed 100 structures and claimed one life.

And it’s hardly the first disastrous fire of 2012. Although most have been on the Front Range this year, several potentially dangerous fires have already erupted on the Western Slope.

A fire near Cedaredge earlier this month threatened homes and prompted 15-year-old J.D. TenNapel to hop on his ATV and rush to warn neighbors. He suffered first- and second-degree burns on his arm, leg, back and face while riding through a tunnel of flame.

Although lightning has been the cause of many of this year’s fires, including the High Park fire, Hickenlooper was on target when he said of his ban on fireworks and open burning: “We want to make sure everyone understands just how dry it is out there and how high is the risk.”

Extreme fire danger isn’t the only effect of the 2012 drought, of course. There are watering restrictions in some places, and there may be more before the summer ends. Wildlife is stressed and fishing is diminished. Backcountry recrecreation is less apppealing to many, even without the ban on open campfires that’s in place in much of the state.

These are among the reasons why, as Daily Sentinel City Editor Mike Wiggins explains on the facing page, this newspaper will be producing a series of articles throughout the summer, detailing the effects of the drought and Coloradans’ responses to them. The first articles in the series, by reporter Matthew Berger, were published in The Daily Sentinel Thursday and posted at http://www.GJSentinel. com.

We hope the series will be useful for our readers. More importantly, we hope everyone remains safe in this dangerous season, and understands the potential catastrophes that can occur if we are careless.


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