A view of a Boulder County neighborhood that was destroyed by a wildfire is seen from a Colorado National Guard helicopter during a flyover by Gov. Jared Polis on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. Tens of thousands of Coloradans driven from their neighborhoods by a wind-whipped wildfire anxiously waited to learn what was left standing of their lives Friday as authorities reported more than 500 homes were feared destroyed. (Hart Van Denburg/Colorado Public Radio via AP, Pool)
A woman reacts to seeing the remains of her mother’s home destroyed by the Marshall Wildfire in Louisville, Colo., Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
A woman reacts to seeing the remains of her mother’s home destroyed by the Marshall Wildfire in Louisville, Colo., Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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.


12 replies on “EDITORIAL: The peril from climate change crosses political lines, just like the Marshall Wildfire did”

  1. THE US GOP LEGACY: denying science on every issue and responsible as a result for so many deaths here and even around the globe. So true, climate change is a matter of science and facts, but GOP have made it political, causing an apocalyptic planet legacy for our future generations.

    1. And you ain’t seen nothing yet! Just wait until they win every election in the Country and until the Supreme Court is comprised of all republicans. They are setting the stage for this behind the scenes, and most don’t even know or care. Then one day, the autocratic party will be in total control and the people will say “How did we allow this to happen?”

      1. The good old USA is a democracy. If you “win every election” then a majority of the people want what you represent. Correct? It’s not just a few of us. By the way, Joe, nice of you to not call anyone nasty names in your two posts. Good job!

        1. The only way the GOP “wins” elections is rampant gerrymandering, widespread voter suppression, and outdated institutions like the electoral college tipping the scales unfairly towards the right. The US is ~60% liberal, but due to all of the unfair tactics the GOP still holds a literal death grip on our quickly dying democracy.

        2. If the US was a democracy, where every vote counted during elections, the gop would never win another election. It’s a republic. And state gop politicians are skewing laws and voting districts to win elections regardless of the overall number of people who vote for or against them. The gop does not stand for democracy. It stands for taking every action necessary to win, regardless of the vote of the people.

  2. You’re talking about affecting the oil industry, one of the main beneficiaries of the republican party, so this just became political. Like every other problem in our country that won’t be resolved because of politics. So sad for us. We aren’t Americans anymore. We are members of one tribe or the other.

  3. 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.”

    Global warming didn’t wipe out those homes. A bunch of dry grass that caught fire in acres of open space that Boulder County bought over 20 years ago to hem in the very subdivision that just burned to ground did.

  4. How much has the earths temperature risen in the last 5000 years? Global temps normally change over time don’t they?

  5. Not wanting to disrespect the losses of all of those people or to make light of a terrible situation. Did the Sentinel just say that global warming is a direct result of wildfires and burning houses?

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