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Drought Fears Take Hold in a Four Corners Region Already Virus-Hit

“The landscape where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet is withering again as the pandemic persists.”

“The vintage train was chugchugchugging its usual route out of Durango that sunny morning as tourists marveled at the postcard-pretty canyon. Just a few miles closer to Silverton, a plume of smoke started rising from the steep hillside.

Within minutes, a Good Samaritan tried to douse the flames, state and federal court documents say. Three separate efforts by the scenic railroad company—including one involving a helicopter—tried to put out the flames, too. But the fire burned out of control within minutes. By the time wildland firefighters finally extinguished the fire six months later, 54,000 acres, an area larger than the nearby Mesa Verde National Park, had been charred and recorded as Colorado's sixth worst wildfire.

The 416 Fire, as the blaze came to be known, started two years ago. And the idea that ordinary activities like the operations of a charming tourist attraction could be so destructive is, perhaps, part of a new reality that's taking hold in the Southwest in a warming climate.”

Judy Fahys reports for InsideClimate News June 8, 2020.