Officials worry about fire moving to higher elevation

The fire that ripped though Fourmile Canyon near Boulder had yet to reach the forested lands hardest hit by the mountain pine beetle, a forest official said Tuesday.

But, Boyd Lebeda, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, said the blaze could grow to the higher-elevation lodgepole forests ravaged by the mountain pine beetle, where no one knows quite what will happen.

There “is certainly more available fuel for fire” in the lodgepole forest, and officials will watch carefully what happens when and if the fire does reach those woods, Lebeda said.

Officials, however, are worried the destruction of the ponderosa-pine forest in the lower elevation of Fourmile Canyon is just the beginning.

“I suspect this is not the last of these that we will see,” said Pam Caskie, executive director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, an organization that represents local governments in Jackson, Grand, Summit, Eagle and Pitkin counties.

Many of those counties have significant lodgepole forests that have been turned brown by the onslaught of the bark beetle. Some of the beetles’ handiwork is visible from Interstate 70.

“Every time I drive that corridor, it surprises me” how brown the beetle has turned the forest without management to limit the damage, Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said.

Eventually the stretch of forest east of Copper Mountain “is someday going to go up in flames,” Brown said.

“You cannot do what we’ve not done for the last two or three decades and expect there to be no consequences.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who worked to obtain $30 million in federal funding to deal with bark-beetle damage near towns, roads, water supplies and transmission lines, said he would try to get more funding.

“I will not rest in my efforts to secure additional funding and support to reduce the wildfire threats from dry, dense trees along the Front Range and throughout Colorado, as well as respond to the bark-beetle threats,” Udall said in a statement Tuesday.


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