Swaths of the Western U.S. are engulfed in flames this week, with major wildfires raging in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The fires have damaged dozens of buildings and forced hundreds of families to evacuate, scorching a region where moderate to extreme drought conditions have persisted for months.
In Colorado, the High Park Fire has already burned more than 56 square miles just two days after it broke out near Fort Collins, according to the U.S. Forest Service. At least 400 firefighters were battling the blaze as of Monday morning, albeit with little success due to strong winds whipping the flames into a frenzy. While no fatalities have been confirmed, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office did report one person missing Sunday.
On top of the dry landscape and windy weather, the High Park Fire is fueled by an excess of beetle-killed trees in and around Roosevelt National Forest, the USFS reports. Colorado is one of many states where pine beetles have spent years decimating vast tracts of forest, boosted by rising temperatures that help more of them survive winter. About 100,000 beetle-infested trees now fall every day in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming alone, according to a 2011 study.
For a glimpse of the High Park Fire's ferocity, check out this time-lapse video, filmed by David Harpe of Denver's FOX31 from Horsetooth Reservoir in Larimer County:
And to learn more about the outbreak of mountain pine beetles in Colorado and other Western states, check out this documentary by Lost Nomad Media:
Also on MNN:
- Bark beetles destroy pines in the Rockies
- Whitebark pine tree at risk of extinction
- Why Arizona gets scorched by wildfires
- Bark beetles' own songs drive them crazy
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