The High Park Fire burned more than 87,000 acres west of Fort Collins in June 2012. Lightning sparked the fire, which began growing on June 9, 2012. Full containment was reached July 1. The fire destroyed 259 homes and displaced hundreds of residents.
Though the fire has been contained, the social and environmental impacts will be felt for years.
Water Resources & Treatment Operations Manager
Fort Collins Utilities is exploring options to address the financial impacts the mitigation from the High Park Fire will require.
Municipal utilities in Fort Collins and Greeley, Larimer County and the Tri District utilities will contribute to the cost of mitigation for non-federal lands in the Poudre watershed and are working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other groups to acquire federal assistance.
On August 21, 2012, The City Council adopted Emergency Ordinance No. 088, 2012, appropriating $626,015 in prior year reserves in the Water Fund for High Park Fire mitigation work in the highest priority mitigation area, 1,152 acres in size, known as Hill Gulch. City Council also adopted on second reading Ordinance No. 098, 2012, appropriating additional prior year reserves in the Water Fund in the amount of $2,000,000, for additional High Park Fire mitigation work. For more information on fire mitigation, find it here.
Drinking Water Quality and Treatment
Water Production Manager
Currently, Fort Collins' drinking water quality has not been affected by the fires, and our strict adherence to federal regulations for water quality ensures the water we deliver always will be safe to drink. Fort Collins Utilities' water quality experts continuously monitor incoming raw water to prevent potential contaminants from entering the treatment system. Utilities is also collaborating with other water users, utilities that have experienced fires in their watersheds, Colorado State University, University of Colorado and Northern Water Conservancy District to respond to fire-related impacts in our watershed. For more information visit this website.
Flooding and Erosion
Stormwater/Floodplain Program Manager
Rainfall can cause large amounts of sediment to run off burned slopes and into the river which could increase total organic carbon(TOC) and sediment levels to rise in raw water.
Wildlife and Natural Habitat
Public Information Officer
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
The biggest negative impact in burn zones is to fish. Ash and debris that is washed into streams can change stream chemistry and suffocate fish. Some animals are injured or die during the fire. Most animals flee to escape the flames. Some animals remain in the fire perimeter and seek shelter in protected "islands" of vegetation that are skipped over by natural fire behavior. Other animals are killed in fires; however we do not generally see a population-level impact. Big game animals will frequently move back into burn areas within days after a fire.
Wildfire can improve habitat. Burned trees allow sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, which allows growth of forbs and grasses that wildlife species rely on for food. Ash provides fertilization for plants to re-grow quickly. Young plans that appear after fire are generally nutritionally superior to older, decadent plants. Young berry bushes and oakbrush will typically produce more berries and acorns than older over-grown vegetation.
Rebuilding and Clean-Up
Deni La Rue
Larimer Country Community Information Manager
Larimer County has an extensive list of resources and information regarding rebuilding and clean-up efforts available at larimer.org/highparkfire.