Firefighters now think they will have to spend the entire summer fighting the Colorado wildfire that?s heading towards Denver. So far, it?s burned 100,000 acres of national forest and several suburbs.
It?s going to be a long, hot summer for firefighters. The U.S. Forest Service says the size of the fire means that crews will have to remain well into July just to contain it and that it will take at least 3 months to extinguish it. At least the strong winds that fueled the fire in its early stages have finally started to die down. Helicopters have poured 2,000 gallons of water on burning areas so far.
"This fire has just kicked our butt," says Dave Steinke of the Forest Service. "It was a big, huge, wind-driven fire that just rolled and gobbled through acres and acres of forests and created horrible firestorms within itself. But it is beginning to slow down. It's still a dangerous fire, but we can now start to get aggressive with it."
Next month is the start of the rainy season in the area and firefighters hope this will give them a break. But like the rest of the U.S., there?s a serious drought in the area, so the needed rain may not come.
Right now, no one thinks the fire will actually reach Denver. If the fire reaches the area surrounding the city, it will be out in the open where it will be easier to fight than it is now, when it?s burning in thick forests. Firefighters hope the highways surrounding Denver will act as fire barriers, preventing the blaze from spreading into the inner city.
Terry Barton, a forestry worker, has confessed to starting the fire when she burned a letter from her estranged husband. She burned it in a designated fire ring, although fires weren?t allowed there at the time, due to the drought. ?She attempted to suppress the fire, but it grew,? says assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Leone. The irony is that she was patrolling the area looking for illegal campfires when this happened. If it?s true, it may prove to be one of the most expensive ?Dear Jane? letters of all time.
Pat Rodriguez, of the U.S. Census Bureau, says one of the problems is that Colorado's population has exploded during the last decade, with many new suburbs being developed near wooded areas that are vulnerable to wildfire, especially in drought years. She says, "These were tiny, rural counties around the perimeter of the metro area that just exploded over the last decade.? Now over half a million of these newcomers have had to flee their homes.
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