The Colorado Wildfires

By: Kayla Dunlap

For more than a month now, Colorado has been experiencing a brilliant red sun as the sunset begins each dusk, but the reason for this beautiful color is less than beautiful. The vivid color is caused by the four fires currently burning in the Rockies. This phenomenon happens because as the sun begins to set, it has much more atmosphere to get through. The smoke and burned carbon from the fire in the air disrupts the lightwaves coming from the sun, and since red and orange have the longest wavelengths, they show the most prominently, giving the sun its beautiful effect.

However, the fires have impacted Colorado in mostly negative ways, with cities all across the state experiencing poor air quality. As of Sep. 2, the air quality in Denver was still at a moderate risk, but has luckily appeared to get somewhat better since. Additionally, a Harvard study found that Americans who had COVID-19 were more likely to die if they lived in an area with high levels of PM2.5 (PM2.5 being particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter). The more smoke is in the air, the more particles, resulting in worse air quality.

The wildfires began Jul. 31, one caused by lightning, the other three by humans, though the exact reasons why have not been released to the public. On Aug. 18, Governor Jared Polis announced a state-wide fire ban. It remained for 30 days, and ended Sept. 17.

As of Sep. 2, there are four different fires, spread out around the Rockies. The Pine Gulch blaze is the largest of all, having burned 139,007 acres, or 217 square miles. It is the largest in Colorado’s recorded history, beating out the 2002 Hayman Fire. As of Sep. 2, the fire was 81 percent contained. The Grizzly Creek fire has burnt 31,464 acres of land (51 square miles), and is 75 percent contained. While the Cameron’s Peak fire is one of the smaller fires (having only burned 23,022 acres or 36 square miles), it is currently just 5 percent contained. The Williams Fork fire is the smallest of them all, at 12,097 acres or 19 square miles, but is only 10 percent contained. 

The precipitation and colder weather on Tuesday, Sep. 8 helped firefighters contain these fires. While the weather did heat back up and resumed aiding the flames later that week, officials were able to hold the fire perimeter and continue to contain the fires.

Luckily for the people of Colorado, besides acres of burned land, no major damage was sustained. No deaths have been reported.