The most destructive fire in Colorado’s history is still burning.
It has already killed two people and burned down more than 473 homes, mostly in the suburban town of Black Forest, Colorado.
That’s a shame.
This fire should be a national embarrassment. There’s absolutely no reason that this event should have been this bad, with two people dead and nearly 500 expensive homes burnt to the ground.
This wasn’t a poor community. The homeowners and the community had the resources to prevent this without outside financial support.
This is simply a disaster due an inability to think resiliently, at every level.
- Pernicious government regulations that outlaw basic rainwater harvesting and promote unsafe home and landscape design.
- Corporations that spend billions marketing dysfunctional, but profitable, homes that turn us into dependent victims.
- Individual homeowners, who were unwilling to take responsibility to make their property resilient to disaster (and thereby threatening the lives and property of everyone else in the community).
As bad as this is, it gets worse.
Even the people that did take responsibility and took action didn’t do the right thing. They simply didn’t know how. Take Nigel Thompson for example. He and his family live in the Black Forest community.
After last year’s massive fire, Nigel decided to take action to protect his home. To prepare, Nigel cut down 20 trees near his home to create a firebreak. He also spent a small fortune on a new roof of fire retardant tiles. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, this didn’t work. His home burned to the ground.
A simple resilient approach to preventing this type of disaster starts with the effective management of water.
Colorado gets more than enough rainwater, even now, to support the development of a vibrant, living forest environment. The problem is that 97% of the rain that falls onto the ground in Colorado evaporates before it makes it to a major waterway. Due to regulations that prevent actively harvesting it, much of that opportunity is simply wasted.
That error can be corrected. Simple measures (for details, see my report on Water Abundance), at both the home and community level can turn homes and their associated landscapes into powerful allies in the fight against wildfires.
For example, changes to home and neighborhood landscapes (from swales to hugelkultur) as well as proper cover crops could easily be added at scales that would have created community wide conditions (higher humidity, lower temperatures, and green plants) that are much less likely to support the spread of a wildfire.
Active rainwater harvesting from the rooftop, if it was allowed, would have enabled even more positive changes to the system. There’s lots more.
Unfortunately, none of this happened, antiquated thinking prevailed, and disaster ensued.
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