Wildland Firefighting

Wildland Urban Interface Fires: Managing a Cascade of Risk

Issue 8 and Volume 165.

BY EDWARD A. WRIGHT It was a normal summer across Colorado’s Front Range, where America’s prairie heartland gives way to the imposing Rocky Mountains. August 2010 saw slightly above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall. By September, a short-term drought stressed vegetation and raised the danger of a large fire event. Fuel moistures in the forests above the city of Boulder were marginally below normal, and abundant grasses and shrubs were seasonally dry. Residents and response agencies in the historic mining communities, trendy subdivisions, and upscale homes in the mountains and steep canyons above Boulder took the ever-present risk of catastrophic wildland urban interface (WUI) fire seriously. Area resident Carrie Barker explained that when the fire danger is elevated in the summer and fall, “We don’t even burn tiki torches up here.” As is common in late summer, diurnal downslope and down canyon winds (localized, time-of-day winds) daily clocked at…

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