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updated: 6/27/2012 5:07 PM

Forestry officials say wildfires unlikely here

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  • Video: Colorado Springs Wildfire

 
 

Only you (and a hearty tree with a raised green canopy) can prevent forest fires.

Despite the extreme heat expected in the next 48 hours, and the near-drought conditions we've experienced for most of the summer, area forestry officials say the local ecology makes it extremely unlikely we'd ever experience wildfires like those raging near Colorado Springs and elsewhere in the West.

Scott Meister, the natural resource management coordinator for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, said the dry air is certainly conducive to small ground fires caused by cigarettes, unextinguished camping coals and uncontained campfires. But the local landscape prevents them from spreading very far, very fast.

"Out West, pine trees are much more prevalent than in the Midwest and they have oils and resins that are extremely flammable. So fire can spread right up the trunk and easily spread to the needles, which are also highly flammable, and it just keeps spreading," he said.

"Here, the dominant trees are oak and hickory. Not only do they lack the oils and resins of a pine, but the bark also acts as a protectant against the fire spreading to the higher canopies. If a fire should reach, though, green leaves in the growing season are not very flammable either."

Our population density also works to keep any would-be fires under control.

"Out West, they have much larger open tracts of land and natural areas than we do and those give fire the opportunity to spread to more rapidly," he said. "Here, we have lots of roads and subdivisions that form fire barriers without much natural flammable material."

Occasionally, small fires may pop up, but when they do, they usually are extinguished quickly.

"Our rangers and preserve staff are very skilled in fire detection and prevention," Meister said, "So when fires do pop up, we get them put out very quickly."

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