Scorched Summers: Remembering 2002

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For Coloradans who’ve been here a while, this summer may be resulting in a bad case of deja vu. Ten years ago, this state went through a similar season of parching drought and devastating wildfires. Towns ran out of water. Ranchers had to sell their herds. Hundreds of homes were lost to fire. We want to know what 2002 can tell us about the current challenges. So for the rest of the week, we’ll look at the lessons learned, and the opportunities lost in the last decade. We call the series “Scorched Summers.”

When those of us in the newsroom who are newer to the state wanted to hear about 2002, we kept turning to CPR’s health reporter, Eric Whitney. He’s a Colorado native and has spent most of his career reporting here. In 2002, that meant covering wildfire and drought. He talks with Ryan Warner about then and now.

Click here to hear all the stories in our Scorched Summers series.

Here are some links to his stories for NPR on the topics in 2002 - 03:

Wisconsin Hay Farmers Donated Hay to Drought-stricken Colorado Ranchers, and Colorado Ranchers Were Happy to Get It.

    Two large firefighting air tankers crashed while working in Colorado and California in 2002. Eric talked to some "tanker gypsies" who fly the fires in this piece shortly after one of the crashes.

      The fires took a huge toll on Colorado tourism.

        After the fires, mudslides and ash-clogged rivers.

        A year after the catastrophic Missionary Ridge fire near Durango, people in the area criticized the U.S. Forest Service for letting a lightning-caused fire burn in the nearby wilderness to reduce the risk of future fires.

        The 2002 fires left many in Colorado nervous about the fire season to come in the spring of 2003.

          [Photo: Andrea Booher, FEMA]