Thank you for your story about the Southwest Wildfire Impact Fund (SWIF) (March 25,”Durango, La Plata County look to new funding model for fire mitigation”).
In 2020, Colorado broke its record for the largest wildfire three times.
Past fire suppression policies and a lack of active management have left us with unnaturally dense forests or, in simpler terms, a lot of fuel out there. If we do what we have always done, we will get what we’ve always gotten!
SWIF is proposing to do things differently, actively manage forests and protect the things we value: our drinking water, firefighters and neighborhoods.
An alternative is to let nature take its course. Can beetles, disease and wildfire do the work work for “free?” Denver Water spent $27.7 million after the 1996 Buffalo Creek and 2002 Hayman fires. The Hayman fire burned about 138,000 acres the same year that Missionary Ridge burned. The Buffalo Creek fire only burned about 12,000 acres and was followed by two inches of rain, moving more than 71,000 dump trucks full of sediment into Strontia Springs reservoir.
Our 2018 416 Fire caused the evacuation of 1,300 homes, closed the forest to recreation, shut down Highway 550 and decimated the economy of Silverton. It also cost more than $27 million in suppression costs.
A $300,000-$500,000 investment by La Plata County and the City of Durango for SWIF is an investment in our collective future. It is new. It requires bold, visionary leadership from us and from our elected officials.
We have don’t have a choice on whether Southwest Colorado will have another wildfire. We can only choose whether or not we prepare for it.