Lauren Backstrom

Colorado fires stimulate questions and the need for a societal paradigm shift

Blog Post created by Lauren Backstrom Employee on Jun 27, 2012

Colorado
Source: The Pueblo Chieftain Newspaper, June 26, 2012 
Image: Waldo Canyon Fire where 32,000 people have been evacuated from El Paso County, Colorado

Two recent editorials (article 1; article 2) in the Denver Post stimulate the need for a new narrative in the growing wildland-urban interface (WUI) wildfire problem.  Tony Cheng, Director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State states that the costs of actively restoring Front Range ponderosa pine and creating fire-adapted communities is on par with the true costs of a large wildfire and goes further to ask why this preventative strategy is not being pursued as aggressively as the traditional fire suppression strategy?

Lloyd Burton, Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Colorado further to expounds upon this notion by asking the following questions:  Why is an urban narrative is being applied to a mostly rural landscape? Why do the media use metaphors of war to describe this problem? Why is there such a huge focus on response and recovery and very little on prevention and preparation?

Burton suggests the narrative needs to focus on the underlying systemic causes of catastrophic WUI wildfire, including the fact that (1) the WUI is rapidly becoming a more dangerous place to live due to climate change and (2) more people continue to move there.  Alternatives to the war metaphor need to be sort and an open, evidence-based conversation about proven policies for effective loss prevention from WUI wildfires needs to be pursued.

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