Fire flight in the valley | PostIndependent.com
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Fire flight in the valley

Post Independent Writer

Hayley Conklin, 17, of Basalt, was in the Glenwood Taco Bell when the Coal Seam Fire of 2002 broke out. By Ivy VogelPost Independent StaffHayley Conklin, 17, of Basalt, was in the Glenwood Taco Bell when the Coal Seam Fire of 2002 broke out.Conklin stood outside the restaurant watching the flames while other people cleared out.”It was really hard because I know a lot of people who live in Glenwood,” said Conklin, who goes to Yampah Mountain High School. “We didn’t know what to think. We saw the smoke and flames but didn’t know what was true.”Conklin heard many rumors during the fire such as, the Glenwood Mall burned down, and is still putting the pieces together.Susy Ellison, a teacher at Yampah Mountain High School, is using fire as a draw to get her kids interested in ecological principals.Since August, Ellison has brought in a variety of fire and ecology experts who have shared their experiences and theories with Ellison’s Fire Ecology students.”Fire ecology is a huge issue in the West,” said Ellison. “It almost took our school.”Yampah High School’s backyard is Red Mountain – one of the many areas scorched by the Coal Seam Fire.Wednesday, students from Yampah and Basalt High School glanced out Yampah’s windows as representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, the Rifle Fire Interagency Office and other fire experts talked about fire and the important role it plays in nature.”We’d love to see fire retain its natural role in the forest but because we live here, it changes things,” said Mark Schofield, forest organizer for the Western Colorado Congress, a grassroots organization that works to create sustainable communities and environmental stewardship.As U.S. population has increased, concern about forest fires has also increased because more people live in forested areas, Schofield said.As a result, more natural forest fires are being brushed out, Schofield said.In 1800, 18-25 million acres burned through U.S. forests, Schofield said.By the 1950s firefighters started aggressively attacking forest fires because forested areas were becoming more fire: see page A2fire:from page A1populated, putting more people in danger of losing their lives or their homes, Schofield said.Today less than 4 million acres of forest burns a year, Schofield said.When a forest fire does burn an area, the area must be “Band-Aided” to prevent erosion, said Dan Sokal, the Glenwood Springs Bureau of Land Management planning and environmental coordinator.Bruce Gordon, president of EcoFlight – a nonprofit organization that allows students to learn about environmental concerns such as fire damage and oil drilling from an aerial point of view – took several students from the morning’s seminar up in his Cessna 210 to give an up close view of “Band-Aiding.”Gordon flew students over Red Mountain where patches of what looked like green dust were visible.The “green dust” is a combination of tact which acts as a natural glue, biosol, which is a natural fertilizer and straw. This combination is applied to areas devastated by fire and is called aerial hydro-mulching.Aerial hydromulching is used for decreasing the severity of erosion after a fire, said Sokal.”This is a great way to get kids interested in ecology,” Ellison said.Before taking Ellison’s class Conklin had no intentions of becoming a firefighter.Now Conklin wishes that firefighters visited her high school instead of Colorado Mountain College and Army recruiters.”I’m really thinking about it,” Conklin said. “It’s way better than the Army.” Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.com


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