Photo by Tania Boyd
Vail wildfire a portent of things to come
August 7, 2009 —
For a little while on Friday afternoon, I thought the “Big One” was coming. Smoke billowed into the sky above West Vail and people gathered in neighborhood parks and hillsides to watch the firefighters contain a blaze above Intermountain that, left untouched, would surely have engulfed the hills above Intermountain (see more RealVail coverage here).
Locals watched from Ellefson Park and from the windows of Safeway. Cars covered the top of Davos Trail. Nearby festivities atop Vail Mountain were called to a halt as the mountain was evacuated.
After searching around for a good photo angle, I found the perfect spot: the front yard of my childhood home in West Vail. The flames curled upward in orange bursts, easily visible only a few hundred yards from our old, wooden, and very-flammable family home.
Rain has been plentiful this year, and most of the fire experts I’ve interviewed for stories on this website (and other publications) agree that the fire danger in our area is still years away from reaching its peak as thousands of lodgepole pines die, then fall over, littering the forest floor with fodder to feed even the most ravenous wildfire.
Even so, there’s still enough fire danger in 2009 to make us all concerned for our homes, our town, and the mountains which have made this place known around the world.
The helicopters are still up in the air, dousing this small fire and keeping us safe – for now. But eventually, a fire must come. At some point, sometime down the road, we will all gather again at parks and windows and watch an spectacle devour the mountain side.
It's hard to imagine a time when we'll let the fire burn - and yet it's even more difficult to imagine how the forest will regenerate without fire.
So, a big fire must come. Exactly when it will come – or, when we will LET it come – remains a mystery.
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