Global warming blamed for fire in heretofore burn-free Colorado area.
For close to a millennium, the sheltered valley of Fern Lake, 3 miles west of Estes Park, Colo., lay untouched by fire. Its remote location, high altitude and long, snow-blanketed winters made the valley something of an anomaly, a place where trees could age 800 years and never feel the decadal burns that moved through the rest of the Rocky Mountains.
That changed last fall. For the first time in recorded history, lightning touched off a blaze around Fern Lake that smoldered for weeks, in what scientists call one of the clearest depictions to date that fire regimes are shifting under climate change.
A shroud of smoke hangs over the Fern Lake forest fire in Colorado. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.
The Fern Lake and adjoining Forest Canyon fires were remarkable not only because of the infrequency with which those regions have experienced fire, but also because the height of the fires occurred so late in the fire season, said David Eaker, public information officer with the National Park Service.
“Usually, the fire season’s over by mid-November,” he said. “To have a fire that peaks in early December makes this a really unusual event.”