The Waldo Canyon wildfire has widely affected the community. Finding a balanced appreciation of the positive and negative aspects of fire's power can help as we all regroup and move forward.
AspenPointe, the combined services of Family Counseling Center of Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Mental Health, is offering need-based counseling to anyone psychologically affected by the fire. Call AspenPointe at 719-572-6100 to schedule a session.
Here are some ideas from the Colorado State University Forest Service that can make the reality of wildfire a bit easier to deal with. As unbelievable as it might sound at first blush, fire is necessary to the health of almost all forest and grassland ecosystems.
- Surface fires that burn undergrowth and leaf litter often prevent or delay more serious "crown fires." These surface burns release vital nutrients into the soil that would otherwise decompose very slowly.
- Fires reduce the number of pathogens and harmful insects that make trees sick.
- Fires result in the germination of new conifers, especially lodgepole and jack pines, whose seeds need extreme heat and smoke before they can release from the cone and germinate.
- Fires create and maintain habitat for large and small animals by burning back or thinning sections, and these ecosystems depend on periodic fires.
- Newly opened sections of the forest canopy give smaller plants the extra sunlight they need to grow, helping to improve diversity in the ecosystem, and preventing it from being taken over by trees.
- Although most surface fires occur naturally due to lightning, since 1972 foresters and park officials have used fires called "prescribed burns" to mimic the benefits of natural forest fire. These prescribed burns remedy the results of decades of fire prevention policies that disrupted ecosystem succession patterns, limited habitats available to animals and resulted in a severe build-up of underbrush and litter.
- As more people build homes, operate businesses and recreate in areas where wildlands border more urban areas, the threat of wildfire increases. Our rural areas and forests take the brunt of drought, population increase and recreational pressures. Subdivision development continues to proceed at an alarming rate in many places. This development creates higher risk of wildfires and the results which run the spectrum from annoying to catastrophic.
These books offer worthwhile perspectives on the subject of wildfire:
Fire: Friend or Foe by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent - Look through on Google Books.
Catching Fire: The Story of Firefighting by Gena K. Gorrell - Introduces the world of fighting forest fires, urban fires, arson investigation, rescues and the variety of emergencies that modern firefighters encounter. Prevention and safety are covered as well.
Ethan Engel is the associate editor of Marmapoints.