Friday, 7 July 2017

Growing wildfire in Colorado in the midst of 834 million dead trees

TWO DIFFERENT FIRES on different parts of the country.

The trees are dying perhaps as as a combination of a mountain beetle infestation, drought and ozone pollution.

A rapidly growing wildfire in a State with an estimated 834 million dead trees is causing great concern in Colorado

  • Nearly one in every 14 standing trees in Colorado forests is dead
  • That's a tree casualty increase of almost 30 percent in the last seven years

6 July, 2017

A rapidly growing wildfire has lead to mandatory evacuations near the town of Breckenridge, Colorado as crews gather to battle the blaze.

The Peak 2 fire ignited late on Wednesday morning and quickly spread to more than 70 acres in just hours.

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The Peak Seven development near Breckenridge is under a mandatory evacuation order, which includes 463 homes, according to the Town of Breckenridge Facebook page.

People in Breckenridge, Gold Hill and Silver Shekel have also been asked to prepare for possible evacuation if the fire continues to row.

"Air resources have been working the fire, as well as a load of smokejumpers and a hotshot crew," Inciweb said.

Additional resources have also been ordered to help contain the blaze.

Conditions will remain very warm in the Colorado Rockies through the weekend with the chance of thunderstorms each afternoon, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Frank Strait said.

"While thunderstorms will produce downpours in some areas each day, lightning from the storms can spark new wildfires in areas that remain dry," Strait said.

Winds from these thunderstorms can also effect the fire until crews are able to fully contain it.

'The whole town is on fire': Newly released video shows cops reaching Gatlinburg victims

6 July, 2017

The inferno looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

But the blaze spreading across the Tennessee horizon is real, and Sevierville police are driving right toward it.

"Keep praying, man ... pray," one officer says.

Newly released dashcam video shows what police and firefighters endured while responding to the Gatlinburg wildfires. The November blazes killed 14 people and caused more than $500 million in damage in the popular tourist community.

Officials released the police footage Wednesday after arson charges were dropped against two juveniles suspected in the blazes.

While the flames quickly turned catastrophic, only now are we seeing the extent of the hellfire through the eyes of rescuers.

Speeding toward disaster

While hundreds of cars fled in the opposite direction, a pair of Sevierville police officers sped toward the inferno the night of November 28.

Sparkling Christmas lights turned into dull blurs of color as smoke covered the road.

"Damn, I can't see," one officer says.

Moments later, the officers make a turn and see a mountain near downtown Gatlinburg engulfed in flames, from its peak all the way to the ground.

Sevierville dashcam video shows a mountain engulfed in flames near downtown Gatlinburg on November 28.
Sevierville dashcam video shows a mountain engulfed in flames near downtown Gatlinburg on November 28.

"Holy sh*t," one officer says.

"That is the craziest thing I have ever seen," another says.

As police head deeper into danger to find residents, the sky turns into an opaque mix of flames and smoke.

"I can't believe all this is on fire," an officer says. "The whole town is on fire. It's like a ghost town."

'I'm just worried about getting you the hell out of here'

While speeding toward endangered houses, police encounter a man in need of help and get him into the car. One officer gasps for air after getting back in the vehicle.

Later, they tell the man he needs to get out.

"We're just going to dump you off ... here," an officer tells him. "There's a bus, and you can take it out to the community center."

The man asks about Pigeon Forge, the popular tourist town and home of Dollywood.

"Man, I'm just worried about getting you the hell out of here," one officer responds. "I really don't care about ... Pigeon Forge."

"We're trying to get everybody out of Gatlinburg right now," the other officer says.

After the officers drop the man off at an evacuation bus, they head into pitch darkness. For a long stretch, there are no street lights.

A woman's voice comes across the police radio: "Please be advised, all power is out," she says. "We can't even have anything power up."

'We will arrest you!'

As the smoke gets thicker and their breaths gets shorter, the officers realize the danger they're getting into.

"Anybody that's staying like this should be arrested," one officer says.

Then, a massive fireball shoots right up to the road.

Dashcam video from the Sevierville Police Department shows a fireball close to a road on November 28.

Dashcam video from the Sevierville Police Department shows a fireball close to a road on November 28.

When police reached a residential neighborhood, they had little time to get everyone out.

"This is the police! Mandatory evacuations! Please leave the property!" one officer shouted.

"Get your *** out of the house, now! Go!" another screamed. "We will arrest you. Come on, get in the car! The fire is over that bridge. Let's go, come on!"
Moving forward

By the end of its deadly rampage, the wildfire damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings.

Roaring Fork Baptist Church was one of those destroyed. Seven months later, the congregation is still trying to rebuild.

"It's progress -- every nail that goes in, every shingle that goes on," Pastor Kim McCroskey told CNN affiliate WATE on Monday.

But tourist sites such as Dollywood are back in full swing, spokesman Pete Owens said.

"The entire area is still affected by the misconception after the fires that the tourism industry was adversely impacted," Owens said in an email Wednesday.

"Dollywood is not as adversely affected as some -- this past holiday week, for example, was up about 8% over the same week last year but the combination of the hangover from the fire and an extremely wet year has impacted our attendance overall."

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