Colorado's firefighters see climate change as a major contributor to the increasing intensity and destructiveness of wildfires. That's the message in "Unacceptable Risk," a short documentary that says the state's fire season has lengthened to seven months and fire departments fear losing lives on the front lines.
Veteran firefighter Don Whittemore and his daughter Madison, who will become a firefighter this fall, spoke with CPR's Andrea Dukakis.
Don Whittemore on climate change and fire behavior:
"What you have to look at is the big picture. Over the last 30 years, the number and size of fires continues to grow almost at an exponential rate. At some point you have to recognize that climate change is occurring... Fire behavior doesn't react linearly to changes in temperature and relative humidity, it reacts exponentially. So a two degree average rise in temperature is not a small change in fire behavior, it can be a significant change in fire behavior."
Madison Whittemore on the dangers of firefighting:
"You have to accept the risk and also understand it. Yes, there's a part of fire behavior that we can't control for. It's this wild beast that is going to do its thing. But what we can control is, one, what we do, and, two, not becoming complacent. Which means, yes, you have to trust your crew and trust your supervisor, but it also means having a voice if something doesn't feel safe or if something in your head says, 'This isn't right,' or 'This is dangerous,' or 'People are going to get hurt here.'"