June 11th, 2012
11:23 AM ET

As northern Colorado blaze grows, a look at the dangers of wildfires

A sprawling wildfire in northern Colorado nearly doubled in size again Monday, spewing plumes of smoke and forcing the evacuation of thousands.

The fire grew to 36,930 acres, authorities said Monday. It had been estimated at 20,000 acres Sunday night.

The Red Cross, Humane Society and other aid groups mobilized to help evacuees while at least 400 firefighters, aided by air tankers and helicopters from as far away as Canada battled the fire about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado.

As wildfire season flares up, here's a look at how some of these dangerous events start and how much damage they've caused in the past:

About Wildfires:

    • Wildfires are sometimes called "wildland fires."


    • Wildfires can originate from a dropped match, cigarette embers, campfires, exhaust sparks from a train, or arson.


    • Many wildland fires are ignited by lightning.


    • There are no official rules, but the first responders usually name a fire after a meadow, creek, city, or type of plant they see.


    • Wind, temperature, and humidity all influence wildfires. Strong winds push flames toward new fuel sources. Wind can pick up and transfer burning embers and sparks, starting "spot fires."


    • During the day, sunlight heats the ground and warm air rises, allowing hot air currents to travel up sloped landscapes. At night, the ground cools and air currents travel down the slopes.


    • Humidity dampens fuel, slowing the spread of flames. Humidity is greater at night, so fires usually burn less intensely then.


    • Large fires can create their own winds and weather, increasing their flow of oxygen.


    • A really large fire can generate hurricane-force winds, up to 120 mph. The high temperatures preheat fuels in the fire's path, preparing them to burn more readily.


A look at the number of past fires, damage caused

Year                                       Number of fires                  Acres burned          

2000                                       92,250                                        7,393,493

2001                                       84,079                                        3,570,911

2002                                       73,457                                        7,184,712

2003                                       63,629                                        3,960,842

2004                                       65,461                                        8,097,880*

2005                                       66,753                                        8,689,389

2006                                       96,385                                        9,873,745

2007                                      85,705                                        9,328,045

2008                                      78,979                                        5,292,468

2009                                      78,792                                        5,921,786

2010                                      71,971                                        3,422,724

* 2004 fires and acres do not include state lands for North Carolina

Source: The National Interagency Fire Center

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Filed under: Colorado • Fire
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    What this report fails to mention is that wildfires are nature's way of renewing the forest getting rid of the dense undergrowth that stymies natural tree development. Problem is mother nature doesn't give a damn about houses and towns or air pollution that effects man.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      If caused naturally. The hayman burn zone has yet to recover, because it burned so hot that it destroyed the buried seeds. But places like yellow stone just bounced right back

      June 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TvNyC

    Armageddon is happening. Jesus in you we trust.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mick

    wasnt there a call for fires to be lit by islamic radicals.?

    June 13, 2012 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. Zoglet

    Dragons start 93.8% of most forrest fires. FACT!

    June 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jody

    We had ather one start in Colo. from some silverback shooting at gas cans. At least that one is contained.

    June 18, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. I Am The Beast Sssotlohiefmjn

    Wow, and I thought these fires were because I was asking my God to make them come to existence and desolate the nation and people?

    June 19, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. Swag Master

    "Bill Maher was arrested in a Fort Collins bar early Monday morning and charged with impersonating a firefighter and theft." – It's about time that schmuck got what was coming to him.

    June 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |