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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The wildfires displace thousands of people in the west of the US

Por DamianToo

The wave of forest fires raging in the western part of the United States, unparalleled in the last two decades, has destroyed at least a hundred homes, displaced thousands of families and polluted water in southern Colorado. California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, among other states, fight about thirty fires that in the first half of the year already burned as many hectares as the hectares burned by the fires of 2017, a year considered as "record", according to statistics from National Fire Inter-Agency Center (NIFC), in Boise, Idaho.

In California, more than 2,100 firefighters and members of emergency services work to extinguish the fire called County, which has razed 28,300 hectares since it was declared last Saturday, is only controlled at 5 percent and has mainly affected Yolo County, located west of the city of Sacramento.

A similar surface has already ravaged the Springs fire, which since last Wednesday has burned about 32,000 hectares near Fort Garland, in southern Colorado.

"The expansion of the Fire Springs last night was significant, as it had been this Monday throughout the day. The fire spread in all directions and we have a large growth in the area north of US160 Highway," said at a news conference Chris Zoller, operating chief of the North Springs area of Incendio Springs, who is in charge of 700 firefighters.

In fact, 104 homes and other structures have already been destroyed by this fire and more than 2,000 families were evacuated. In addition, the small town of Cuchara (150 inhabitants) could be evacuated in its entirety if the flames can´t be stopped.

Zoller and his team took over the operations on Monday and since then they have dedicated themselves to constructing containment lines in the northern perimeter of the fire to "protect structures", especially several small towns very close to the fire.

The NIFC anticipates that the combination of high temperatures, prolonged droughts, little snow and thunderstorms will make 2018 an "above average or extreme" wildfire season.

That is exactly what happens in Colorado, where it is estimated that in the first six months of 2018 about 80,000 hectares were burned, a figure that in previous years was only reached in full years.

In fact, the fire Springs and the 416, both without still being controlled in Colorado, already appear between the ten more destroyers in the history of the state.

However, the destruction is far from reaching the more than 400,000 hectares burned in Colorado during the 2002 fire season, but if the Springs fire continues to advance, conditions are set to potentially reach a burned area of that size.

To avoid this, aerial reinforcement is concentrated in the perimeter of the fire and specifically in areas cleared by firefighters and in the protection of structures. In fact, firefighters have already managed to save 61 homes.

In Utah, a fire near Strawberry Reservoir (130 kilometers southeast of Salt Lake City) forced the evacuation between Monday and Tuesday of an undisclosed number of people who planned to spend the Independence Day holiday at that popular fishing spot.

According to Jason Curry, spokesman for the Utah Division of Forests, Fires and Land, that fire started two days ago "for human causes" and has already burned 2,700 hectares.

In total, until this morning there were 29 forest fires in the west of the country. And while firefighters and, in some cases, the National Guard are fighting the fire, experts seek to protect the water affected by the fires, explained the State Forest Service of Colorado.