Colorado’s Marshall Fire: Has Funding Needs Corrupted Climate Science?

By Jim Steele

I was totally shocked to hear the claims by a fire scientist I had once admired and often quoted in my blog posts about wildfire. In a National Public Radio interview Jennifer Balch said, “Climate change has lengthened the state’s fire season”. Then she said “”Climate change is essentially keeping our fuels drier longer. These grasses that were burning, they’ve been baked all fall and all winter.”

Having studied fire ecology for 30 years and knowing her published science, I could only believe she had been corrupted by the need to attract large amounts of funding, and these days that comes to those who blame the climate crisis. And here’s why I now hold that opinion so strongly.

Colorado’s Marshall Fire was a grassfire that happened with temperatures hovering around freezing. All fire experts and fire managers know grasses are 1-hour lag fuels. That means in dry conditions grasses can become flammable within hours. Attempting to link CO2 global warming, she and other alarmists were now blaming the Boulder area’s grass flammability on the warm dry conditions from July through November. But dry conditions in the past months are totally irrelevant. Those months could have also been cold and wet, but just one day of dry conditions is all that is needed for grasses to burn.

To minimize recklessly set fire that often occur as people burn away unwanted dead vegetation,the Nova Scotia government felt the need to counterthe Myth that “It’s safe to burn grass as long as there is still some snow on the ground.”

The Fact is: “Within hours of snow melting, dead grass becomes flammable, especially if there have been drying winds. Grass fires burn hot and fast and spread quickly around, and even over, patches of snow.”  That’s a fact that Balch and every other fire expert should know!

Apparently, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles and the Nature Conservancy and acolyte of climate alarmist Michael Mann and Noah Diffenbaugh, also failed to understand grasses are 1-hour fuel. He stated in an interview for NBC’s article How climate change primed Colorado for a rare December wildfire that “Climate change is clearly making the pre-conditions for wildfires worse a cross most fire-prone regions of the world,”

But dry grasses are not the pre-condition to be worried about. The pre-conditions that neither Swain nor Balch shared with the public is well known: Boulder County’s invasive grasses increase fire danger. The “main offender is cheatgrass, which was likely introduced to the area alongside agriculture and ranching” and “is increasing fire danger by 29%

In fact, in 2013 Balch published, Introduced annual grass increases regional fire activity across the arid western USA (1980–2009), writing “Cheatgrass was disproportionately represented in the largest fires, comprising 24% of the land area of the 50 largest fires” and that “multi-date fires that burned across multiple vegetation types were significantly more likely to have started in cheatgrass.”

It was also very disingenuous for Balch to say ““Climate change has lengthened the state’s fire season”. It is the very same meme that every climate alarmist regurgitates that climate change has made “a year-long fire season the new normal”. But in 2017 Balch published in Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States thathuman ignitions “have vastly expanded the spatial and seasonal “fire niche” in the coterminous United States, accounting for 84% of all wildfires”. Balch’s published graph clearly shows that human ignitions have extended fire season all year long. Based on her own research, a more relevant comment would have mentioned that Louisville, Colorado’s population had jumped 10-fold; from 2,000 in 1950 to about 20,000 today. Does a 10-fold increase in population create a 10-fold increase in fire probability. The Marshall Fire was not naturally started by Lightning.

In 2015, Balch created the Earth Lab program at Colorado University. In 2017 it became part of CIRES, a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder. Earth Lab, got increasing attention from mass media that’s always seeking click-bait. As Earth Lab’s team began blaming more fires on climate change, it got more attention and Balch got more interviews.

Earth Lab hired Natasha Stavros as Earth Lab’s Analytics Hub Director. In videos posted by the Washington Post, she claimed climate change causes “longer, hotter, and drier fire seasons” reflecting Balch’s conversion to a climate crisis narrative. To get around Balch’s earlier scientific research Stavros deflected, “We are not talking about the ignition source” or the “availability of fuels”, “what we are talking about are the conditions of those fuels”. But in the case of the Marshall Fire, 1-hour grass fuels have nothing to do with climate change. It only takes a few hours to be in highly flammable conditions. That’s weather, not climate!

Although lacking in scientific integrity, pivoting to a climate crisis narrative worked in Balch’s favor. The U.S. Geological Survey has selected the University of Colorado Boulder to host the North Central Climate Adaptation Science Center (NCCASC) for the next five years. Balch, as director of CIRES’ Earth Lab, and now NCCASC Director had attracted $4.5 million in funding. Universities around the country similarly create such centers to attract such major funding. Certainly, blaming fires on a climate crisis attracts more funding than if its director sounded like a “denier” blaming invasive grasses and human ignitions.

The politics of funding research requires a major level of group think. Daniel Shechtman won the Nobel Prize for discovering quasi-crystals that are now used in surgical instruments. But when he first announced his observations, he was kicked out of his lab by his colleagues. They saw him as a threat to the lab’s prestige and funding because observing quasi-crystals contradicted the consensus that was enforced by Linus Pauling that quasi-crystal did NOT exist.

Similarly, esteemed atmospheric scientist Dr Cliff Mass was criticized by Washington University administrator’s for detailing how an episode of problematic acidic waters that had been pumped into the state’s oyster’s hatcheries, was due to natural upwelling events, not climate change. But contradicting the climate crisis angle threatened funding to WU’s Ocean Acidification Center. Up until then Mass had been the Seattle Times go-to person for all weather events, but that stopped when his one analysis didn’t support climate crisis groupthink. Dr Peter Ridd was fired for presenting evidence showing his colleague’s claims of coral reef destruction were exaggerated.  So, all savvy university professors know you can’t contradict the meme if you want funding, or worse, keep your job.

Climate crisis groupthink, also ignores natural climate change, as did Balch and Swain. But one meteorologist confidently blamed the lack of snow and dryness on a natural La Nina. The science is well established that depending on how colder Pacific surface waters set up during a La Nina, atmospheric currents can carry higher or lower amounts of moisture to different regions. California had record snowfall this December while Colorado snowfall was very low. And if the Marshall Fire had been ignited just 2 days later, there would have been a snowfall to suppress the fire.

However too often, alarmists scientists cherry-pick one-year events. They weaponized this year’s low snowfall while ignoring that last year’s Colorado snowfall was far above normal. In November last year, Fort Collins received more than 15 inches of snow on its way to 80 inches, which is 25 inches more than normal. Again, such variations in snowfall are weather, not climate.

Alarmists also weaponized the dry conditions as solely due to global warming drought. They ignored the drying and warming effects of the Chinook winds that are very common in Colorado. Chinooks are known as “snow eaters” because as the winds pass over the mountains of the western USA they are forced upward and precipitate all their moisture. When those winds descend from the Rockies down to Boulder, temperatures rise adiabatically (due to pressure not added heat) and the warm dry air quickly removes moisture or snow from the surface. Southern California’s Santa Anna winds are similar and drive large fires.

Sometimes Boulder’s winds reach speeds of 100+ mile per hour. NOAA reported The Chinook Wind Events Winter of 1982 during which peak wind gusts more than 100 mph damaged areas around Boulder. Weatherwise journal reported 100+MPH winds over Boulder on January 7, 1969, which snapped power poles and toppled planes as seen in the photographs below. In November 2021 the weather service gave a red flag warming due to the high winds from a Chinook event. But without a coinciding human ignition, there was no rapidly spreading fire.

I would like to believe that Balch’s Earth Lab scientists have been campaigning for the housing developments in Boulder’s suburbs of Louisville and Superior to create a system of firebreaks and defensible space. Those suburbs had built into easily ignited grassland in a region where fires are rapidly spread by the dry Chinooks descending from the Rockies. Such natural fire danger is not always obvious to the public looking for affordable housing. But it is not obvious that was ever done, at least not as obvious as faulty climate change narratives.

Fire experts should have pushed for building codes, requiring adequate spacing between new houses. As a story in Wildfire Today reported today, one common feature of the surviving homes was they were more distant from neighboring homes. Many houses in the devastated subdivisions were only 10 to 20 feet apart. Without adequate fire breaks or defensible space, if just one house allowed the fire to reach it, the heat of that burning house is enough to ignite any house next to it. Similar dynamics were seen in California’s Tubbs and Camp Fires that demolished neighborhoods.

But perhaps local governments were greedy. Eager to build a tax base a growing Louisville population was most important. Politicians had worked hard to present Louisville as one of the top 10 most livable little cities. Putting natural fire danger front and center, might put a damper on the city’s attractiveness. And not surprisingly the Denver Democrats didn’t waste time to capitalize on the Marshall Fire devastation. The released a statement claiming “This fire has also punctuated our climate crisis and made abundantly clear the need for bold action. The science is clear, and the impacts are very real. We will continue to work with our community and legislators to ensure climate change is treated with the urgency and attention it deserves.”

But the science does not show a connection between the Marshall Fire and Climate Change. And due to the greed of the media, politicians, and selfish scientists, only scientific integrity is facing a real crisis.

Finally, it is worth noting that some scientists are acutely aware of the increasing fire danger presented by the build-up of dead vegetation. To remove that hazard prescribed burns are being performed. But sometimes prescribed burns get away and burn down people’s homes. So prescribed burns are carefully planned for times when fires are most easily controlled. So, one must wonder just how unusually dangerous local conditions were if the City of Boulder planned a prescribed burn on Monday, December 13, 2021, just 2 weeks before the Marshall Fire. Had climate change really made conditions so dangerous?

Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition.



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Tom Halla
January 2, 2022 6:11 am

Add in bad wildlands management, and one is assured of a bad fire. Mechanical clearing or burning of excess brush is needed, which of course will draw objections from the greenies.

Mike Dubrasich
Reply to  Tom Halla
January 2, 2022 12:02 pm

Wildlands? Some fake news gives impression that Boulder subdivisions are built of sod houses in an untouched prairie. That’s not the case.

Fuel management in and around built areas was and is possible and cost/loss effective. Maybe folks should have mowed and watered their lawns. A green mowed lawn is one of the best fire-safe practices. They have water there. A dry season is not an excuse to fail to water the yard.

The jamming together of houses is a stupid practice based on koolaid drinking by watermelon land use planners. The landscape there is immense. People like elbow room. Tiny houses on postage stamp lots are programmed failure at many levels;
instant fire-prone slums.

The Marshall Fire was not the first subdivision fire, nor will it be the last. As long as people fail to see and deal with the fuels, these fires will continue.

Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
January 7, 2022 7:55 am

Colorado does not have water to waste on grass. It is an arid state!

Well watered lawns means empty wells or high water/sewage bills!

Reply to  Tom Halla
January 3, 2022 7:58 am

My impression – based on reading, pictures, and first hand accounts – is that these fires were in suburban areas. One police chief who lost his home said he’d lived there for 35 years. These are not “wildlands”

January 2, 2022 6:12 am

I live on the east slope in Colorado. The fall has been incredibly warm and dry. We had our first real snowfall on new year’s eve. I don’t know how anyone could show it was “climate change”. That’s just stupid.

Reply to  Tom
January 2, 2022 4:07 pm

but so convenient for their dogma (from which they profit greatly, or at least protect their grants)

Reply to  Tom
January 7, 2022 7:57 am

My brother lives in Colorado Springs where they’ve had several snowfalls in December and November.

Colorado Springs in on Colorado’s east slopes.

Mumbles McGuirck
January 2, 2022 6:22 am

In the previous WUWT story, the author mentioned that just weeks before a fire bug had started a blaze in Colorado. I’ve seen no mention of this in the MSM. But Balch’s study would imply this as a possibility. I wonder why the press would ignore such an obvious angle?

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
January 2, 2022 9:26 am

Who knows what goes on in the minds of journalists, but seeing this fire started at the intersection of hwy 93 and marshall road, arson is a very distinct possibility– perhaps the only reasonable explanation.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 2, 2022 9:59 am

I heard it was sparks from a downed power line.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 10:52 am

As I recall, that was speculation on the part of one of the mayors, based on third hand information. However, given the winds involved, it’s a reasonable working hypothesis.

Rich Lentz
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
January 2, 2022 12:06 pm

30 plus years working for the utilities and after the fire a few years ago ago in Northern CA and the big settlement from PG&E, most are taking measures to assure that power lines will not dance in heavy wind and cause these sparks.

Reply to  Rich Lentz
January 2, 2022 3:12 pm

Put power lines underground.

Reply to  Streetcred
January 2, 2022 10:13 pm

Ehehehe, unfeasible. Worst idea than all-wind; more expensive.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Ruleo
January 3, 2022 12:00 am

Underground wires are prone to getting massive current spikes when lightning hits. It is an induced current. Even short distances like a house to garage have a much higher risk of being damaged than an overheard wire. Plus fools are always hitting cables with digging instruments.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 12:35 pm

That was an early suggestion. However, as of today, it was reported that all the power lines have been checked and no downed lines were found. Arson looks even more likely.

Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 3:05 pm

The power company, Xcel, said that they had no downed power lines.

This barn fire looks like the ignition source.

Paul S.
Reply to  Scissor
January 3, 2022 9:27 am

Local newspaper article on front page seems to indicate the “barn fire” is most plausible

Paul S.
Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 3, 2022 9:30 am

The power lines are being ruled out. Evidence is pointing in the direction of a deliberate irresponsible outdoor fire. Not necesarily arson, but a stupid thing to do with gusts up to 115 mph.

Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
January 2, 2022 12:53 pm

I wonder why the press would ignore such an obvious angle?

I think they have proven that they will ignore anything that doesn’t fit the narrative they want to spin.

Reply to  TonyG
January 2, 2022 3:08 pm

This article appeared in the Denver Post the day before the Marshall Fire.

Thomas Gasloli
January 2, 2022 6:25 am

You are surprised some one lied on NPR?

John Garrett
Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
January 2, 2022 8:30 am

NPR is a full-blown climate propaganda broadcasting operation.

Their two-decade long campaign of incessant daily CAGW proselytizing would make Edward Bernays blush.

January 2, 2022 6:31 am

So all these homes were built and ZERO fire protection measures were taken. How did climate force them to be so stupid? Oh, silly me! Climate is in charge of their college education, THAT is how they got so stupid.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  2hotel9
January 2, 2022 9:19 am

The Chinook winds were 100 mph plus on thursday. Very difficult to suppress a grass fire under such conditions.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 2, 2022 9:59 am

Proper fire breaks and keep grasses, brush and trees cleared from structures would certainly help. Not using vinyl siding and asphalt roofing are two other good steps. This has been happening in these fire prone regions since humans first arrived in them, you would think people would figure it out. In the past I have done firefighting, been rolled by two fast movers, been pounded into the ground by slurry drops several times. I know how absolutely terrifying and destructive open country wildfires can be. People got to smarten up.

Reply to  2hotel9
January 2, 2022 3:25 pm

I mention above that I received incentives to replace cedar shakes with asphalt. I guess tile or steel would be more resistant.

In any case, as Kevin mentions, this fire was difficult to suppress. One person with a surviving house said that they turned on there lawn sprinklers.

Rick W Kargaard
Reply to  2hotel9
January 2, 2022 4:11 pm

This was relatively small as grassland wildfires go. Less than 10 square miles. There just happened to be a lot of people and developed property in its path. I have fought much larger ones on open range. Often they are unstoppable until the wind dies and evening cools things off. Heavy farm and construction equipment can slow things but sometimes expensive equipment is lost. It must be a nightmare in a suburban setting with no way to use heavy equipment or backfiring methods.

Reply to  Rick W Kargaard
January 2, 2022 5:33 pm

Fire breaks and keeping grass, brush and trees cleared back from structures helps. Building with REAL fire-resistant materials helps. Don’t want a suburb to burn? Fire breaks, keeping grasses, brush and trees cleared away from structures and building with REAL fire-resistant materials are your only options. This is not a discussion, simply stating the facts. Facts government at every level refuse to accept.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 4, 2022 10:55 pm

However it first ignited, evidence suggests it initially spread by grass. That in itself is an interesting “angle” for the experts to study. It isn’t just the urban / wildland (forest) interface that can immolate people’s “forever homes”. But as Jim Steele points out, once the grass fire became a house fire, it was a different beast. Steady winds blowing through a house fire in excess of 100 mph create a horizontal blowtorch that will easily ignite another timber frame home within a dozen yards or less. I assume these homes were of the quick-build 2×4 / OSB combo that has become the building trade’s go-to matierial for homes. Builders don’t leave half-acre lots around people’s houses nowadays. The pictures tell the story. Anything downwind is fuel for that monster.

Regarding cheatgrass as primary fuel. Cheatgrass is a very low-growing grass that senesces (withers) by early July. It’s so short and spindly that I don’t think it would supply much fuel by January. On the other hand, I’ve been seeing a lot of tall 2 feet + grasses still standing around the western Denver suburbs in the open spaces. Wheat, bent, rice grass, buffalo, bluestem and brome got off to a good start due to a remarkably rainy spring which allowed them to “bulk up”. Early and prolonged rains and abnormal winds aren’t the “backstory” that warmists would like to promulgate for this catastrophe, but they certainly contributed. Here is the telling graph from one of their own (a dyed-in-the-wool AGW-er).

Reply to  2hotel9
January 2, 2022 3:20 pm

I’ve owned a couple of homes in Louisville. One had cedar shake shingles on the roof. After that roof was damaged by hail, we received incentives to replace these with asphalt shingles to reduce the fire risk (and cost). So, there is some forethought to reduce fires. In addition, there are frequently announcements concerning fire bans, etc. That’s so common that people don’t think about it.

Of course, there will now be more focus on fire prevention, and a lot more people will assemble go bags, etc. With the wind, the Marshall fire was a huge challenge as it got out of control so very quickly.

Reply to  Scissor
January 2, 2022 4:12 pm

Unlike the Oakland Firestorm of ’91 (for which I had a ringside seat), it appears no more than 3 human lives lost, and most animals saved, too. The Oakland site has (and still does) some terrifying pinch-point roads (one in particular the crosses the Hayward Fault right above the UC Berkeley Coliseum) that trapped people fatally. In Louisville, the houses may have been too close together, but the roads make for safer evacuations.

Reply to  Lyzzz
January 2, 2022 4:24 pm

Definitely. There are east and west roads and Hwy 36 (Boulder turnpike) intersects Superior/Louisville diagonally. It’s 3 lanes in each direction and I understand that cars did u-turns on the west bound side.

Reply to  Scissor
January 2, 2022 5:22 pm

Asphalt shingles to reduce fire risk. Really? Which burns faster? Shakes. Which burns hotter? Asphalt shingles. Which don’t burn at all? Metal. You need to fire whoever is insuring your home, they are incompetent assholes.

Reply to  2hotel9
January 2, 2022 5:54 pm

Yes, metal would be better, but also more expensive. I’m in a newer home now out of Boulder County.

I’ve gotten a new roof due to hail damage on all the homes that I’ve owned. Metal would be good for protecting against that also.

Reply to  Scissor
January 2, 2022 6:08 pm

Perhaps I have a skewed perspective on this, been working in construction and remodeling for a bit here in PA, metal roofs here are cheaper than traditional. Unless you are getting a metal roof system that looks like shingle/shakes. They are a bit pricy.

Reply to  2hotel9
January 2, 2022 10:17 pm

been working in construction and remodeling for a bit here in PA, metal roofs here are cheaper than traditional

I don’t think you have if you’re here claiming metal is cheaper than shingle. Holy MOLY!

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Ruleo
January 2, 2022 10:48 pm

We did metal with our lake house in Saskatchewan 3 years ago
Cost was a wash compared to 25 year asphalt

Reply to  Ruleo
January 2, 2022 10:55 pm

Think what you want, metal is going on more roofs in PA than shingles. If it is more expensive how is that happening?

January 2, 2022 6:36 am

I wondered what the Church Times (aka The Guardian) had to say about this. So paras with ‘climate’…

“Joe Biden declared the situation a disaster and experts warned that the climate crisis and suburban expansion contributed to the devastation.”

“Scientists say climate change is making weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.”

“Climate change is definitely a part of this story in that fire seasons are longer,”

Things, however, can’t be that good at the Peoples’ newspaper….

… congratulations on being one of our top readers globally in 2021. Did you know you’ve read 107 articles in the last year? Thank you for choosing the Guardian on so many occasions.

I would say I laughed at them. But my favourite part

With no shareholders or billionaire owner, we can set our own agenda and provide trustworthy journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence.

Comedy gold.

The Guardian loves what Jennifer Balch and Becky Bolinger (assistant state climatologist at the climate center at Colorado State University) have to say.

That speaks volumes.

Last edited 1 year ago by strativarius
January 2, 2022 6:55 am

“Has funding needs corrupted climate science?” should read “Have funding needs…”
Aside from the grammatical error the answer to your question is… Yes, without a doubt!!

Reply to  Dave
January 2, 2022 7:04 am


Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Dave
January 2, 2022 8:16 am

I read that headline and said huh??

CD in Wisconsin
Reply to  Dave
January 2, 2022 12:12 pm

“Yes, without a doubt!!”


Ditto for me Dave.

I for one am not ignorant enough to believe that science, like may other things, is not corruptible by the greed for money and power. Money and political power are what is required to advance activist agendas, be it in environmentalism, Marxist-socialism or most any program in academia requiring funding.

That governments have been spending a fortune for years now chasing after the climate alarmist narrative no doubt plays a large role in keeping the scare alive. Coupled with the vested interested that activists have in the climate scare (for the sake of their agenda), it should not be surprising that the scare has gone on now for over 30 years. As long as govts continue to make it a financially worthwhile bandwagon to ride, the scare will go on.

This also explains the intolerance for dissent that we see in the alarmist narrative. Nothing must threaten the vested interests in it (outside of climate science itself). Hence, the so-called “deniers” are heretics and Orwellian thought-criminals.

And of course, the United Nations and the IPCC are more than happy to co-operate. They probably has little reason or incentive to do otherwise. Never mind what it’s original purpose was when it was created after WWII.

Reply to  Dave
January 3, 2022 9:36 am


A few years ago I was competing for a million dollar NSF grant for the investigation of a newly proliferating invasive species. We were the 2nd group in and were competing with the 1st group that had pioneered the initial research regarding the reasons for the invasion. These were very well known and prestigious universities.

When the grants were finally awarded, the 1st group had won. However, we were ASTOUNDED to read that they COMPLETELY repudiated their initial thesis/hypothesis and claimed that climate change was to blame. They literally chucked years of research for the money…it was jaw dropping to see. However, the grant got a number of participants university tenure and promotions & the university publicized its pioneering work in climate change. Commenting on our loss of the grant, our vice provost for research (and funding) said: “they taught you guys how to play the game.”  

Keep in mind you can pretty much correlate everything with climate change (increasing CO2 and the adjusted temperature record), even the rising stock market.

Anyway, the field was thrown into disarray as all groups then began to try and verify the spurious climate change claim… an close to a decade has gone by without a result or any progress on the problem. And when you see review papers on the issue, they read: “The original hypothesis proposed and supported by XXXXX is contradicted by XXXXX. (lol)

Last edited 1 year ago by Anon
January 2, 2022 7:03 am
Reply to  Speed
January 2, 2022 7:48 am

Some d.Details on this particular fire. is based in Nevada County CA but does have some info on some fires elsewhere.

Reply to  Speed
January 2, 2022 3:26 pm

Here’s a table of recorded Boulder wind events.

January 2, 2022 7:18 am

One of the local meteorologist’s, Mike Nelson spend a few minutes on a tirade about how this fire was 100% climate change making our dry climate even drier. And all I could think of was the Chinook winds and the fact most if not all of the Denver Front Range site in a mountain rain shadow. Everything thing he could and should have said, he didn’t.
Unless we get an upslope situation with warm humid air from the Gulf and a cold front from the north, it is very unlikely we’ll get a high precipitation storm.
In an area where 35 – 40 degree temperature changes in a day, no major body of water to regulate daily weather patterns, 12 – 15 inches of precipitation in a year, and a 110 – 120 degree range through a year, it’s hard if not impossible to attribute a lack of moisture to anything but topology and location.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 1:46 pm

Nelson is an idiot who can only parrot what the teleprompter says.

Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 3:32 pm

I moved to Colorado from the midwest decades ago. It’s always been dry. I would find it difficult to believe that it’s getting drier.

Anyway, our wild grasses here typically begin to turn brown in July. They are essentially as dry as they can be by the end of summer.

Reply to  Scissor
January 2, 2022 10:48 pm

I’m sorry you moved to Colorado. Good luck.

Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 10:48 pm

That’s what happens with a semi-arid climate. Local news have always been failures. Channel 9’s security guard murdered a MAGA supporter in cold blood (you can find the video).

Anyways after mail-in-ballots corruption gave the state to the Dems, and weed was legalized bringing roughly 1.5 million druggies and bums, I left. Colorado is trash now. Homeless camps litter the suburbs.

Rud Istvan
January 2, 2022 7:26 am

Stick built homes are cheap but flammable. Masonry shell/metal roof homes are more expensive but much less flammable. The result was inevitable. The warmunist link to climate change rather than site spacing and construction methods in a known fire prone area was also inevitable.

Doug S
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 2, 2022 8:25 am

Good point Rud. We listened to eye witness accounts from people who were in the middle of the Tubs fire here in California. They told how even fire hardened homes (stucco exterior and metal standing seam roof) were burned by embers entering the attic and crawl space through the vents. This issue has stuck with me and I’m convinced that all the vents on homes in fire danger areas need covers that can be quickly closed in a fire. The winds blowing past the home creates a low pressure on the downstream side and those embers get sucked in through the open vents like a vacuum cleaner.

Reply to  Doug S
January 2, 2022 9:01 am

Vents are important so we can’t do without them.

Vents that resist the intrusion of embers are now part of the California building code. link

Reply to  commieBob
January 2, 2022 11:10 am

Coffey Park area, Santa Rosa, Ca. was devastated by fire just over four years ago. Now they are re-building anew.
So what they do putting up timber houses barely few feet apart, with wooden fences in between. Even couple of dead dry trees from previous fire left as an ornament at the front door ( link ).
Walk around with Google street view, same situation over and over again ( link ).
Eventually another fire will arrive and result will not be any different to one from October of 2017.

Last edited 1 year ago by vuk
Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 11:25 am

LOL. I bet the local HOA insists on roofing with cedar shakes.

Reply to  commieBob
January 2, 2022 12:09 pm

See my comment further down.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 2, 2022 8:51 am

Historically, many North American cities were largely or almost completely destroyed by fire. As a result we got building and fire codes that pretty much put an end to the problem.

It’s not like we don’t know how to fire proof communities. How is it, then, that we have local building codes that allow patently unsafe construction practices. Did some builder grease the palms of some politician?

Of course, what’s unsafe depends on where you live. I’m guessing the folks in Florida don’t have to worry about snow load just as I don’t have to worry about hurricanes. Obviously, local building codes have to be tailored to local conditions.

I wonder if the people who implemented the local building code can be prosecuted for criminal negligence?

Paul C
Reply to  commieBob
January 2, 2022 11:35 am

The Great Fire of London in 1666 led to massively updated local building codes. Also, enforcement of existing codes – the very naming the GREAT fire is an indication that London had been plagued by major fires throughout its history. Brick or stone facades, and slate or tile roofs became requirements. Overhanging floors and eaves were banned. While standards have slipped (Grenfell), the British tradition of brick built houses is forged from fire.

Reply to  commieBob
January 2, 2022 12:57 pm

I wonder if the people who implemented the local building code can be prosecuted for criminal negligence?

One of the features of building codes is that, in cases like that, if someone goes after the builder for a defect, they can claim “It was built to code”. And the government can’t be held liable.

Reply to  TonyG
January 2, 2022 8:32 pm

True. But a public official can still be prosecuted for official misconduct. link

One of the examples in the linked article is:

A city council member voting for a construction project in which they have an undisclosed interest;

I’ve seen secretaries dish the dirt on bosses they didn’t like …

Reply to  commieBob
January 2, 2022 11:06 pm

How is it, then, that we have local building codes that allow patently unsafe construction practices. Did some builder grease the palms of some politician?

Quite the opposite. Local codes are generally excessive to national building code requirements. The NEC also updates every two years, with 150 changes for 2021, for example.

Large construction companies push for over-regulation in order to push out pesky upstarts. Multi-national corps also love minimum wage (Amazon/WalMart)- kill the mom and pops off.

Reply to  Ruleo
January 3, 2022 1:47 am

All that does indeed happen. So why, in this case, were dangerous construction practices permitted? Remember the Grenfell Tower fire? Why were those dangerous construction practices permitted?

Corrupt or negligent regulation can take a variety of forms. I think we agree though that over regulation causes serious damage to the economy and society.

WRT minimum wages, Thomas Sowell points out the stupidity of the policy.

Paul C
Reply to  commieBob
January 4, 2022 7:12 am

The retro-fit cladding on Grenfell met the EU standard EN13501 which was applicable at the time. A superior British standard BS8414 existed, and is actually used in some non-EU countries, but it would be discriminatory against European firms to insist on application of the British standard within Britain, so only the EU standard could be required. Basically, the European standard required a tiny sample of each material to be fire-tested. The British standard required a life-size section of the complete cladding system to be fire-tested. There were later complex arguments about whether passing the European test actually was a pass, or if it was only a restricted pass, but basically, the companies made an appropriate effort to follow the regulations which allowed an unsafe system to be installed.
Often, compliance with the regulations becomes such an arduous task, that unsafe practices are permitted as long as compliance is achieved.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 2, 2022 3:40 pm

My current house exterior is stucco and brick. I think next year I’ll do a better job of clearing leaves and expand the beds of river pebbles bordering the house. I’m due East of Louisville by about a mile. One reason we moved here was the larger yards and greater spacing between houses. Fire wasn’t a consideration, but it will be on our minds now.

January 2, 2022 7:27 am

building subdivisions in areas prone to wild fires is as risky a building in a flood plain. don’t know for sure when this area became a sub but say fifty years ago the same fire would not have made a sound.

Kevin kilty
Reply to  joe
January 2, 2022 9:13 am

The area was built up largely in the late 1980s through the 1990s. I have friends who live just west of macaslin blvd. When they moved there 34 years ago it was wide open country. Jim Steele mentioned cheat grass, or Downey brome, which is a scourge across the west. Introduced to help hold the soil during droughts, it does no good at all in stabilizing soil, but spreads like mad and is green for about three weeks in late spring — dry as paper from then on.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kevin Kilty
Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 2, 2022 3:44 pm

I used to take my turkey carcass to the west side of McCaslin to feed coyotes. Probably shouldn’t have done that.

There’s a Lowes and shopping center there now. The coyotes had to move.

Rich Lambert
January 2, 2022 7:42 am

Much of Colorado has a dry climate. Normal rainfall for Boulder, CO is about 21 inches/year. Dry grass and winds are to be expected there.

Reply to  Rich Lambert
January 2, 2022 8:19 am

Damn, that’s about 50% more precipitation than Frederick and Firestone. Both are due east and not that far away.

January 2, 2022 8:24 am

Looking at headline photo I find it hardly believable that every single house is burnt down and all trees still have all their brunches intact. I come from Mediterranean where it is dry and summer fires are frequent. I have on more than one occasion gone to help to put out grass and shrubs fires.
What were all these people doing?
Have they garden hoses?
Have they had water supply to their properties cut off?
Were they expecting that fire crews will get everywhere in time?
Something went terribly wrong here.

Last edited 1 year ago by vuk
John Dilks
Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 8:43 am

They are Democrats. They expect the Government to help them. They are not capable of helping themselves.

Paul Tikotin
Reply to  John Dilks
January 2, 2022 3:39 pm

HaHa. Republicans turn their hoses on house fires and electrocute themselves so the only people left are democrats?

Fighting a fire (aside from a small one in reasonable weather) is a very hazardous business. I would advise republicans and democrats alike to be careful. I would especially warn republicans not to assume they are immune to fire hazard!

Reply to  Paul Tikotin
January 2, 2022 11:22 pm

turn their hoses on house fires and electrocute themselves

Oh for the love of… Electrical Theory isn’t you strong suit it is? I would love to see you try that (you’ll fail, hard).

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 9:57 am

I agree Vuk.

When I burn brush piles at the farm, there is definitely a point of maximum heat radiation. The fire builds up fast on a dry pile, especially when it is creating its own draft. However, the heat radiation drops quickly past the peak. (Even though the embers will burn for a long time.)

At the peak of the fire, it will sometimes ignite grass beyond my fire break, so I have to babysit the burns until they collapse and begin to subside.

How about an actual scientific study from some state universities? Give us a temperature profile at several distances from a fire of an average-sized house.

People can then use distance from their neighbor’s house plus appropriate materials to fire-proof their own house. Treat wildfires like a “house virus” and get the darn R0 to less than 1, so a single burning house doesn’t take out every other house in the entire development!

I bet the major insurance companies would even help their policy holders with those calculations. Lower rates plus a safer house, what’s not to like?

Reply to  Pillage Idiot
January 2, 2022 8:16 pm

“At the peak of the fire, it will sometimes ignite grass beyond my fire break, so I have to babysit the burns until they collapse and begin to subside.”

Try doing that with 110 mph winds. These fires spread 100 yards in mere seconds.

Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 10:01 am

They had little to no warning.

Reply to  rhs
January 2, 2022 11:47 am

This is how rich USA re-builds in the place burned down only 4 years ago ( Santa Rosa, Ca. )
This is how houses were built in pre- Victorian London for working class people, all brick built. Londoners had one Great fire when the most houses were of timber construction, they were determined not to have another one, not so in California.
If the nineteen century London could afford brick houses for its working class people, why can’t the twenty first century California, one of the richest places in the world.

Last edited 1 year ago by vuk
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 12:46 pm

California has concerns about earthquakes. Wood buildings will flex, brick will fall down.

However, that doesn’t preclude metal roofs and siding. Before the mania about asbestos, asbestos siding was common.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 2, 2022 1:40 pm

Then build the way Tudors did.comment image
It will survive medium size earthquake but will not catch fire easily.

Last edited 1 year ago by vuk
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 2:57 pm

California doesn’t do “medium.” Even the flexible woodframe homes are required to be bolted to the concrete foundation.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 2, 2022 4:22 pm

And the foundation must meet EQ standards. That adds considerably to the cost of building before there’s even a frame on the house.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 2, 2022 4:55 pm

We lived in Topanga cyn Calif for a number of years, directly adjacent to Topanga state park. The area is fire prone because of the oily brush and of course the Santa Ana winds. We saw a number of fires over the years in the Santa Monica mountains some going over the hill and destroying homes in Malibu. I put a large water tank in the back yard with a pump never had to use it. We did have to evacuate once with a fire approx 1 mile distant. Standing in my second floor den I saw a man across the valley using what I later learned was a metal bladed weed eater start a brush fire. It got out of control very quickly and soon the water bombers were in action. A controlled burn in the park got out of control one time as well. So we saw lots of fires in Topanga and surrounds. Also so things didn’t get dull we experienced the Northridge Earthquake; that was an incredible shaker; we were 6 miles from the epicenter.

Paul C
Reply to  Vuk
January 4, 2022 8:15 am

While there was only one Great fire of London, there had been many previous significant London fires over the centuries. The standard bricks and mortar (and tiled roof) house construction in Britain is no longer ubiquitous, with timber-frame construction (usually with brick cladding) being attempted yet again to meet green credentials with higher insulation and air-tightness standards. The big problem is that Britain is damp, very damp, sometimes humid, often cold, but mostly damp. Timber does not fare well when it gets damp.
It seems that many of the house building materials commonly used in America are what we use to construct sheds here.

Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 3:48 pm

The wind was too fast. A lot of people were at work. Some people did use hoses and turned sprinklers on but very few had time and perhaps smartly didn’t risk their lives.

Reply to  Vuk
January 2, 2022 8:13 pm

They had high sustained wind and gusts as high as 110 mph. They were lucky to get out of there alive.

Bruce Cobb
January 2, 2022 8:47 am

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall
All you’ve got to do is call
Call it Climate Change, yeah yeah
You’ve got a fiend

January 2, 2022 8:48 am

The Chinook winds that you speak of are not uncommon for Boulder County. These high wind gusts may appear once or twice a year. Wind gusts of over 100 mph are the reason there are tie-down laws in Boulder County. Sheds and mobile homes are required to be tied down.

One story holds that during the construction of NCAR, the Chinook came in and peeled a stack of plywood located on site like a card player dealing a deck of cards. Luckily no one was hurt.

Reply to  SMS
January 2, 2022 3:49 pm
Steve Keohane
Reply to  SMS
January 2, 2022 8:15 pm

I worked in a lumber yard in Berthoud, NNE of Boulder, in the 70s, and I remember a dayChinook that peeled several stacks of plywood and siding. The sky was red with dust, sun was obscured. No one was injured. Semi trucks are often restricted north of Ft. Collins on Hwy 287 due to high winds.

January 2, 2022 9:08 am

Since the Chinook winds already have a name over 100 years old, they are not the result of “Climate Change”

Since fires can burn in any dry tinder at any point in time, and are accelerated by windy conditions, they are not the result of “Climate Change”.

Remember, weather is not “Climate Change”, except when “experts” want it to be.

Coeur de Lion
January 2, 2022 9:08 am

Anyone mention that American wildfires were ten times more extensive in the 1930s?

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
January 2, 2022 9:15 am

“Nope, we did not mention that.

And we sure as hell ARE NOT going to mention that in the future!”


— & CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, NYT, WAPO, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter

— don’t forget us — all of the professors at colleges with departments of “global warming” studies

Stephen Skinner
January 2, 2022 9:20 am

And this area is a Semi-Arid climate.

John Bell
January 2, 2022 9:23 am

OT a bit, but FORD must be nuts to think all these e cars will sell?

Ford Motor Co. on Monday announced plans to invest $11 billion to build several new plants to produce parts for electric vehicles, creating nearly 11,000 jobs.
This company will pay for a new assembly plant to build all-electric F-Series trucks and three battery plants, including factories in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Ford had already announced an investment over the past two years of $950 million in the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, to build the all-electric 2022 F-150 Lightning.
Bringing the battery supply chain to the U.S. insulates Ford from being held hostage by battery shortages the way the industry has been kneecapped by the global semiconductor chip shortage.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  John Bell
January 2, 2022 10:03 am

Apparently, they have 200k “reservations” for the F-150 LETs. That just means they are (supposedly) interested in one. For $5k, you can order one, but don’t hold your breath. Only 15k will be produced this year, 55k next, and 80k the following. You do the math. Oh yeah, and dealers are tacking on hefty markups – up to $30k. But, think of the bragging rights and virtue signaling. You can’t put a price on that.

Reply to  John Bell
January 2, 2022 10:04 am

If a post starts with off topic, how about sending a link to Notes and Tips.
Not everything can be a stand alone story, but not every story has to be comment or thread jacked…

Burgher King
Reply to  John Bell
January 2, 2022 10:36 am

Most, if not all, of those EV trucks will be sold to local and state governments, and to federal agencies, at prices above a hundred-thousand dollars apiece.

Ford is betting that government agencies will be purchasing and keeping all these EV vehicles regardless of what the true ownership costs eventually turn out to be.

For every truck which is out on the road serving mission critical needs, another will be sitting at a charging station — doubling the number to trucks needed to supply the same level of service.

If you are Ford, what’s not to like about government purchased EV trucks?

Last edited 1 year ago by Burgher King
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John Bell
January 2, 2022 12:49 pm

Maybe its time to sell your Ford stock, if you own any. Or short it if you don’t.

January 2, 2022 9:28 am

The Boulder County sheriff said an active investigation is underway into the origin of the Marshall Fire with several tips from the community coming in, one of which resulted in the execution of a search warrant.

Rumors are now rampant that there’s a building owned by a cult called the “12 Tribes” a couple hundred yards or so from where it started.

So I am sure that “experts” will now claim that “climate change” causes cults to form.

Reply to  Doonman
January 2, 2022 11:21 am

That isn’t a cult, it is a sect. The religion is Gaia worship funded by the new world order folks to advance total control of humanity. All alarmists are funded by these folks. They utilize multiple strategies to spread fear.
Fear promotes more government control and is rather lucrative for these folks. All the funding for “climate change”, “green energy”, and over-hyped hazards of a virus have made a number of new billionaires.

Reply to  Doonman
January 2, 2022 4:31 pm

Sure sounds like it started on Twelve Tribes property.

January 2, 2022 9:59 am

We had a hot, dry fall exactly like this one about twenty years ago. That year the son-in-law and I were elk hunting in November on days when it was 85 degrees.

Thus far Tony Heller is the only one I’ve read who noted that fuel burdens (grasses) were very heavy because of the record snowfall in the Boulder area last winter.

Reply to  roaddog
January 2, 2022 3:52 pm

He’s right. Also, the east side of the rockies around here had plenty of water through July.

Reply to  Scissor
January 2, 2022 8:19 pm

It was as green as I’ve ever seen it, in 40 years.

January 2, 2022 10:30 am

Many houses in the devastated subdivisions were only 10 to 20 feet apart.

When dealing with a house fire in a neighborhood like that, keeping the fire from spreading is always a major concern. Even if we manage to do that, there can be a surprising amount of damage to the neighboring house.

January 2, 2022 10:48 am

Below is a link for an excellent article on the problems with cheatgrass from The Salt Lake Tribune. Utah also has huge problems with the very tall and dense phragmites.

January 2, 2022 11:14 am

Not a bit. They burned it down so they can skim off the payments to those that lost their homes. A dollar for you, two for me.

dodgy geezer
January 2, 2022 11:40 am

Nothing to do with corruption to attract grants any more. It’s worse than that.

It’s now a straight threat. Say these things, or lose your job….

Rich Lentz
January 2, 2022 12:01 pm

There is also the problem of people discarding their cigarette out the window in areas where the fire risk is very high. Even saw a fire that I believe was started by someone discarding his cigarette on I5 on a hot summer day. Was coming down a hill north of LA heading for Sacramento., and only saw one other car on the road. Appeared to be about two miles ahead of me. About a minute later I saw a small patch of fire/smoke along the berm of the pavement. Immediately called 911 and began looking for a mile-marker. Many Tourists do not think before discarding, it is a habit.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Rich Lentz
January 2, 2022 12:59 pm

Unfortunately, it isn’t just tourists!

Clyde Spencer
January 2, 2022 12:31 pm

… she claimed climate change causes “longer, hotter, and drier fire seasons” reflecting Balch’s conversion to a climate crisis narrative.

“Hotter,” such as in the 90s or 100s for days, doesn’t apply here. The cheatgrass would have been senescent and flammable even in a cooling world. In the absence of dense suburbanization without precautions for fire protection, this would have just been an inconvenient prairie fire.

Humans caused 97 percent of all wildfires in the wildland-urban interface, 85 percent of all wildfires in “very-low-density housing” areas, and 59 percent of all wildfires in wildlands between 1992 and 2015.

Paul Tikotin
January 2, 2022 3:47 pm

Surely it is too early to say anything about what science “says” about this fire. The event was, I think, unusual. That does not mean a conclusion can be drawn either way between climate “change” and this particular fire.

Climate does affect fire behaviour. If it changes, so will fire behaviour.

January 2, 2022 4:05 pm

We recently moved to the Front Range. My sis lives 2 miles east of the Marshall Fire, about the same distance my husband and I lived from the Oakland Firestorm of ’91. The similarities were eerie–Chinook (Santa Ana)-driven firestorm.
And this shows the wicked brilliance of rebranding from global warming to climate change, because any weather-related disaster then becomes an example of what will happen if we don’t do what they say right now.

January 2, 2022 5:30 pm

“The politics of funding research requires a major level of group think.”

Last edited 1 year ago by BallBounces
Solomon Green
January 3, 2022 5:38 am

May I thank Jim Steele for an excellent article, from which together with the numerous comments below, I have learnt much.

It would appear that, as in California and Australia, the several casualties and much damage caused the recent wild fires in Colorado owed much to the ignorance and folly of local and state governments and their misguided environmental policies.

The contribution of “Climate change” to the disaster being limited, as usual, only to the opportunity to publish of more woke propaganda and to request more grant money for dud science.

January 3, 2022 7:56 am

I subscribe to the daily NY Times and Washington Post, and read Economist every week. I do not recall any of these publications mentioning “climate” as a cause of the CO fires. Yet the author takes a slam at “climate science”, a very broad area.

I do recall reading that it has been a very dry Autumn in the Boulder-Denver are, but having lived there that is nothing new.

seems like the author is cherry picking at best.

Reply to  chris
January 3, 2022 9:23 am


It seems you only read what you want to read, or perhaps you’re just an alarmist sock puppet

Clearly you dont read too well! MOST media outlets insert a climate change suggestion to associate it with every tragedy. Open your eyes!!!


“This is a new world we’re living in,” said Jennifer Balch, the director of the Earth Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We need to completely rethink where homes are at risk.”

“But residents said they were anxious about whether to rebuild in a suburb that felt newly vulnerable to the devastating effects of a warmer, drier climate in the Mountain West. If their suburban blocks and the neighborhood hotel and Target store were vulnerable to fires, where was safe?”

The NY TImes has been blaming fires on climate change for years for example

read Hurricane, Fire, Covid-19: Disasters Expose the Hard Reality of Climate Change

From the Washington Post

How extreme climate conditions fueled unprecedented Colorado fire

The there’s Andrew Friedman at Axios

Climate changes linked to Colorado’s fire disaster

Then there are the local news outlets

Marshall Fire: The face of climate change, manipulating from the margins
The Boulder County disaster represents a dangerous new game, at least in Front Range fires. It’s also part of a trend: an expansion of wildfire season.

And on and on it goes ad nauseum blinding people like you who fail to engage in critical thinking

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Steele
Pat from kerbob
Reply to  chris
January 3, 2022 10:39 am

None are so blind as those unwilling to see

Pat from kerbob
January 3, 2022 10:45 am

I think it’s pretty obvious that the extension of the fire season is almost completely due to the issue of too many people starting too many fires.

In BC where 2021 was an elevated but nowhere near a record year, bc govt stats show that 60% we started by humans.
Same seen recently in california

So I guess the insane are somewhat right when they say it’s caused by people

I saw a couple guys start a fire that burned a few homes in Springbank west of Calgary a few years back in early spring when snow wasn’t completely melted so they thought it was safe.

They were using a propane based gopher killing machine, pumps propane into Warren of Dens and ignited it


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