I was running with Teddy the Junkyard Jack down Music Pass in preparation for the upcoming pack-burro races when I first saw the smoke from the Hayden Pass fire. I knew at once these were not cumulus clouds with their billowing heads, amber undersides and dull rainbows in the folds.
I had failed to reach the top of Music Pass that Sunday, not due to anything physical but rather because of time constraints so common to the steel-jaw trap of family life. The summit would have to wait for another day.
From this vantage at the south end of the Wet Mountain Valley I could not get a pinpoint on the fire, only that it was somewhere in the range north of Westcliffe. Judging from the height of the smoke I figured it was mid-altitude on the range, and large.
I watched the smoke boil and fan eastward with the afternoon wind as I changed out of running clothes. Then I began driving toward town, where I could clearly see the fire was in the Coaldale area.
Back home, the edge of the smoke towered overhead, with a breeze cleaning the air at ground level. I knew this would change. Read more
Prior to the end of World War II, planes were deployed to wildfires as spotters. At the end of the war, with a good supply of surplus bombers, many were quickly deployed as air tankers, dropping water and chemical retardant to support the ground crews.
Helicopters are used as well, to make more precise drops on fire location. The Salida airport is a service stop for the several helicopters supporting ground efforts with the Hayden Pass Fire. Read more
In March 2013, President Barack Obama, using executive authority under the Antiquities Act, designated 242,000 acres in Taos, New Mexico, as public lands. This area became a national monument known as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. As a result, the land, its rich Hispanic and Native American heritage and the wildlife habitat are protected and preserved. The monument ends right at the Colorado and New Mexico border. Some citizens in Colorado believe this designation should be expanded to include a portion of the San Luis Valley.
Conejos Clean Water (CCW), an activist group based in Antonito that fights for environmental, social, and economic justice believes that around 66,000 acres of land in the Valley should be included as part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. CCW is no stranger to tough battles. Begun in 2010, in response to nuclear waste being transferred along the San Antonio river in the town of Antonito, the grassroots organization hopes to bring the same success and influence developed at that time to the monument expansion discussion. Read more