An unthinkable tsunami of fire that ripped through more than 1,000 homes and buildings Thursday in the relatively treeless, flat suburban plains just outside of Denver was indiscriminate of party affiliation or household income.
Everyone along the Front Range and across the Colorado plains needs to be clear what happened this week when the Marshall Fire forced tens of thousands of residents in the Superior and Louisville area out of their homes, many permanently.
Colorado, tragically, has become all too accustomed to wildfire, far outside of what has for eons been wildfire seasons. And winter grassland fires, though rare, aren’t unknown.
But the Marshall Fire was different.
There was no dense or sparse forest of trees that fueled flames as the fire worked from house to house. The fire started in grassy fields and then exploded with flame. Once it pushed into nearby housing developments, it moved from house to house, like mountain wildfires move from tree to tree.
Wood houses with asphalt roofing, like millions of others across the metro area, became perfect fuel.
Not just a few houses burned, but hundreds and hundreds of them. And not over days or weeks, but within just a few hours.
While the drought-stricken region and notorious front-range winds created ideal conditions for such a disaster, this can, and probably will, happen again — because of human-created climate change.
That’s according to an indisputable vast majority of all kinds of scientists, researchers and what we can all plainly see.
The worst part? Expect more catastrophes like this, more often.
It’s not just a Colorado problem, nor even an American one. This year, German towns were wiped out by astounding floods. The same in China. Just last month, entire communities across the South were wiped out by packs of tornadoes — in December.
Hurricanes now create confounding deluges far from landfall, flooding subways in cities and homes all across the nation.
Shuang-Ye Wu,PhD, an environmental scientist focusing on climate change, and a professor at University of Dayton, said the science and conclusions are unmistakable. So-called greenhouse gas increases from human activity have raised the atmospheric temperature. The changes caused by that have a clear effect in the United States, and other places,too, Wu and others say.
Dry climates are becoming drier, and wetter climates are becoming wetter.
It isn’t that the foothills along the Front Range from Boulder to Colorado Springs aren’t accustomed to occasional hurricane force winds. But on top of endless drought to create natural fuel, it becomes a perfect recipe for disaster, and it did. Scientists and common sense guarantee this will be repeated.
For decades, we have either ignored a clear and relentless call for immediate change that is not some esoteric threat to future generations, but a very real peril to all of us, right now.
As journalists captured images of piles of ashes where houses and apartments once stood, it was impossible to tell which ones were once homes to voters for Trump or Biden. The fires consumed the pricey gallery furniture of one home the same as it did worn hand-me-downs in another house.
Global warming and the growing menace it imposes on all of us is not a political problem, only solving it is.
And it’s not a problem just for the Greeks or people along the coasts or just the Southern states.
It’s a crisis for all of us, including the metro area.
In Colorado and the United States, we need to press our leaders from across the political spectrum to treat global warming like the crisis it is, a crisis that can wipe out 1,000 homes in a matter of hours while we all stand by helplessly.
There is no room for debate, Democrats and Republicans must act as one to quickly and meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions before the unimaginable environmental or weather anomalies become endless and unstoppable.
If your elected representatives in Congress, the Legislature, the state and even your county and town council don’t understand the threat and don’t provably act on it, fire them.
The non-political question is no longer whether we should quickly turn away from the fossil fuels that have caused this and will continue to make it worse. The question isn’t when. It’s a question of how we do this now.
Arguments that the cure for climate change, changing energy sources, is worse than the disease just went up in smoke last week in Boulder County.