Early Spring Brings Early Danger

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"When Sam Lamar Lucas and his wife, Linda, saw smoke below their Colorado home, he called 911.
“We live up in the foothills and we just got home and looks like there's a fire right at the foot of Cathedral Spires," Lucas said in a 911 tape from March 26 that was released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's office Tuesday.
The dispatcher interrupted him.
“That is a controlled burn. The [Colorado State] Forest Service is out there on scene with that."
Lucas was bewildered. “Yeah, we got 79-mile-an-hour winds up here and they got a controlled burn?”
The dispatcher said yes.
Exasperated, Lucas responded, "Oh wonderful. Thank you."
Linda Lucas’ body was found outside their charred home that evening. Sam Lucas’ body was discovered the next day.
The Lucases were two of the three fatalities from the Lower North Fork fire, which burned about six square miles after strong winds scattered the prescribed burn."

This is an overdue entry, but then again, I guess all my entries are. I want to take the time to give my deepest condolences to the loved ones of those lost, and to the dozens of families that lost their homes in the recent Lower North Fork wildfire in Jefferson County. As you read above, this wasn't meant to be a "wild"fire. The Forest Service implemented a controlled burn on a day that had gusty winds in excess of 80mph. Due to their negligence, a major mistake in the reverse 911 calls and the misinformation, residents didn't have enough time to save anything... Some couldn't even save themselves.

A good portion of the West has been under high fire danger due to the abnormally low snow levels, warm temperatures, high winds, and extremely low humidity. The Lower North Fork fire is only one of the several that have started in Colorado, including one right here in Summit County (Keystone). Here is a good article released by the Summit Daily. If you live in the area, I encourage you to read it.

Unfortunately the fire danger isn't our only problem this spring. The fast-melting snow has caused a serious decline in spring visitors. The runs at Breck right now look how they look mid-June of last summer. Thankfully the resorts can probably write-off their loses due to their massive success last season. The low snow melt will also drastically hurt other businesses this summer, such as raft guides and tours. Another article I read today in the Summit Daily confirmed something else I was suspecting:

"Warm weather is bringing some of Colorado's black bears out of hibernation early and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding residents to be “bear aware” to protect bears and people.

With temperatures rising into the 70s already across much of Colorado, bears are beginning to emerge from dens and sightings have already been reported in Colorado Springs, Aspen, Durango and Summit County.

“So far the reports that we've received have been mostly just sightings — people seeing bears,” said Cory Chick, Area Wildlife Manager for Colorado Springs. “But it's a very good time to remind people that trash is the number one bear attractant and people can do their part by following some simple rules at home.”

Suggested guidelines include:
• Obeying local trash ordinances. In areas without trash ordinances, only put trash out on the morning of pickup instead of the night before pickup. 
• Take down birdfeeders during the spring and summer. Once winter ends, birds have many natural food options. Attract birds naturally with flowers and bird baths. 
• Keep barbecue grills clean and stored in sheds or garages.
• Feed pets indoors.
• Keep doors and windows to your home closed and locked, especially when no one is home. Garage doors and side doors that are left open for pets are not only an open invitation to thieves they're also an open door for bears to enter homes. 
• Lock car doors and don't store food in your vehicle. "

With the feeling that I can't end an entry on such a negative note... The lack of snow will also have some benefits. Hikers, bikers, and all other summer outdoor recreation enthusiasts will get to enjoy a particularly long season this year. The motocross track in Dillon is opening TOMORROW, which I am extremely excited about. Last summer it didn't open until June, and was closed often because of all the flooding problems in the parking lot and track.

I have a lot of hiking adventures on my list this summer, and now that all the snow is melting, I am extremely excited for my first mountain accent!

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