Hayman Fire: A Decade Later…

Scars from the Hayman Fire

Scars from the Hayman Fire (Photo credit: flowercat)

From Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association May 31, 2012:

“Next Friday marks one decade since the Hayman Fire ignited southwest of Denver and northwest of Colorado Springs on June 8, 2002, and became the largest fire in the state’s history.”

In the next few days the 10 year anniversary of the Hayman fire, which consumed 138,000 acres of Colorado vegetation, will be remembered for the scar it left not only on the landscape and ecology, but also the hearts and minds of 133 people who lost their homes.

After all is said and done though, one question remains on everyone’s mind…what is being done to prevent this degree of tragedy from happening again, especially in our current year of 2012, a year said to have the potential for disaster when it comes to wildfires.

Change in Communication

Gene Stanley, a former fire chief in the Southern Park County Fire Protection District in Guffey, CO detailed that he was close enough to the Hayman fire to smell the smoke, but never received a call for help from the Forest Service.

The lack of communication and networking between federal officials and the local firefighters has been an issue of debate as to whether it was a contributing factor to the wildfire’s devastation, yet things have managed  to change for the better in the wake of this destruction.  There is now a specialized program being used to train volunteer firemen, as well as a new dispatch system that will increase communication to local fire stations.

According to Stanley, this new system has produced “very, very, very good communication and cooperation” between the firemen and the federal land managers.

Fire and Vegetation Go Hand in Hand?

The aftermath of the Hayman fire also taught the federal land managers about the importance of fire as a benefit to the natural ecology.

They learned that resources could be wasted while attempting to put out a fire as quickly as possible, whereas letting it burn would remove deadfall and underbrush from the landscape.  This method is also conducive to tree growth and regeneration as seen in the case of the giant sequoias, whose seedlings require fire to grow naturally.

What’s Next?

If there is anything positive to apprehend from the Hayman fire, it’s a lesson in how humans should react to wildfires, neither treating them with unbridled aggression nor naive complacency.

We at Pie hope this coming summer will be bolstered with efforts to reduce the storing of fuels in hazardous WUI (wildland-urban interface) areas as well as increase our safety through wildfire mitigation, provided by funding from the US government.

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