- Evie Corr
The First Spark of 2022
A fire emerged in Boulder County, Colorado, in the last days of 2021, on December 30th, that spread into the new year. This fire, known as the Marshall Fire, not only spread fast, but it spread far. The 110 mph winds occurring in the state helped spread the fire to reach over 6,000 acres and destroy two towns in the county.
Washington, D.C., in the mid-Atlantic, is lucky enough not to have the threat of wildfires, but their effects are still present in the city. The Bootleg Fire, which began on July 6, started in Oregon, but its smoke and wind levels were so severe that ashes spread to DC. Not only did the ashes affect visibility, but they brought down air quality.
The state had seen very little rain in the weeks leading up to the fire. This led the grasses to become very brittle, fragile, and most importantly, flammable. It is not typically this dry during Colorado winters.
A typical fire season in the western United States occurs during the summer months of June, July, and August. Within the last few years these summer wildfires have had increasingly awful effects, destroying forests and homes.
The smell of smoke in 30,000 residents' homes forced them to evacuate. Nearly 1,000 houses were destroyed and those whose homes survived don't have access to water, gas, and electricity despite temperatures as low as 7 degrees F.
As 10 inches of snow sat on the ground, flames ran through the air. The fire remained active for many hours, but the snow helped significantly tame the fire.
The Marshall Fire was far from what Colorado residents are used to. The majority of people had just enough time to evacuate and grab necessary goods. Miraculously, it appears that only one person died in the fire, while a handful are still missing.
The fire “wasn’t a wildfire in the forest; it was a suburban and urban fire,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis told the New York Times. This was highly unusual for a fire in the West.
The emotional impact it left on citizens was severe. “It felt like the apocalypse,” a Louisville, Colo., resident told the New York Times.
Not only was the county of Boulder struggling from effects of the fire and pandemic, but earlier that year a mass shooting had occurred. On March 22, 2021, 10 people were killed in a supermarket in Boulder, Colo. People were struggling left and right from losing community members to losing their houses and neighborhoods.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden traveled to Boulder to provide support for the victims of the fire. In his speech President Biden emphasized the fires' cause, climate change, and the need to confront the climate crisis.
He described it as “a blinking ‘code red’ for our nation,” according to the New York Times.
The Marshall Fire hasn't been the only “code red” this year. Another recent example is the devastating tornadoes that tore through the American South on Dec. 12, killing 77 people.
There are countless examples of unexpected weather caused by climate change all over the planet. Typical fire seasons may change soon because these “summer wildfires” are starting to become too common. Clearly these situations indicate the critical need for major changes to prevent the devastating impact of climate change.