Happy Monday, Boulder. Hope you had a restful and rejuvenating weekend.

This morning’s top story from Tim Drugan explores an increase in nighttime fire intensity amid accelerating climate change, as outlined in a study published by CU’s Earth Lab. He spoke to local experts about shifting our thinking on the conventional wisdom of fire patterns, with the devastating Marshall Fire “portending things to come.”

Plus a celebration service for the late Clela Rorex, today’s police town hall, upcoming arts festivals, tonight’s Concerts in the Parks performance and more.

See you on Wednesday! ✌️

– Jezy, managing editor

Visitors enjoy the sights at Boulder Falls on Sunday, July 10. Credit: Jezy J. Gray

Quickly

🌤️ Retreat from the heat: Cooler temps are in store today, with expected highs in the 80s under mostly sunny skies. But don’t get too comfortable — we should be back in the mid-90s by the end of the week.

🕯 Remembering Clela Rorex: Want to honor the life and legacy of the pioneering former county clerk who signed the first same-sex marriage license in the country? The late Clela Rorex will be celebrated on what would have been her 79th birthday: Saturday, July 23. The service will take place 11 a.m.–1 p.m. at the JCC in Boulder. RSVP here, and read our profile on Rorex here

📣 Residents rally for reproductive rights: Saturday’s demonstration in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade drew a large crowd of abortion rights advocates to downtown Boulder. “We’re going to keep doing this until we get where we need to be going, which is federal legislation, and ensuring that every woman in every state and every pregnant person has the rights that we have right now in Colorado,” YWCA Boulder County CEO Debbie Pope told Denver7. “If anyone has ever seen what women can do when they organize, you will know that this is just the beginning.”

🚧 County road paving starts tomorrow: The road maintenance division of the Boulder County Public Works Department will begin its annual summer paving of county roads on Tuesday, July 12. Work should last through August, weather permitting, from 6:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The county is encouraging residents to avoid construction zones if possible. For a complete list of affected roads, click here.

🏘️ FYI on ADUs: Boulder County planners have proposed land use code changes aimed at making it easier for people to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on properties where their homes were destroyed in the Marshall Fire. The proposed revisions waive certain permitting requirements for building an ADU up to 700 square feet and within 50 feet of the home that burned down in unincorporated Boulder County. Register here to offer public comment during a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, July 20, to discuss the text amendments to the code.

👮‍♀️ Police town hall: Tune into this month’s Boulder Police Department virtual town hall meeting today, July 11 at 5 p.m. The topics: training for officers and approach to federal partnerships. The session will include opportunity for public comment. Get the virtual meeting link. And read our previous coverage of these town halls here and here, and our analysis (with charts!) of Boulder’s crime rate.  

🚲 Vision Zero action plan: The City of Boulder is seeking public input through Sunday, July 17, regarding its “community goal to have zero serious injuries and zero deaths on our streets.” If you missed the June 29 meeting on the city’s Vision Zero action plan, you can access it here and offer your thoughts here. And check out our stories on Vision Zero and related transpo projects here and here.

🌎  Climate convo: Join the City of Boulder from 5:30–7 p.m. on Monday, July 18, for the second session in its three-part webinar series on addressing the climate crisis locally. Building a “circular economy” will be the topic of conversation during the virtual information session. Register here.

Top Story

Night is no longer a respite from wildfire as the Marshall Fire showed, ‘portending things to come.’ What can be done to prepare for the next blaze?

By Tim Drugan

Historically, the fall of dusk has subdued fire. As the sun no longer warms the earth and temperatures stabilize, winds that hitherto brought flames an endless supply of oxygen are reduced to breezes that don’t so much fan fire as periodically cause grunts and shiftings in its slumber.

In recent years, however, nighttime temperatures have not been dropping as they once did, and the increase in humidity that usually accompanies cooler temps has become similarly absent. This creates conditions that encourage flames to sally forth on quests begun in daylight.

“You now have 24-hour fires,” said Adam Mahood, a former post-doc at CU Boulder’s Earth Lab who recently began another post-doc at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Fort Collins. “You don’t get that break you used to.”

Such were the findings published by Mahood and colleagues this year in Nature, one of the premier science journals. The study, “Warming weakens the night-time barrier to global fire,” found, among other things, that nighttime fires have increased in intensity by 7.2 percent between 2003 and 2020. But as is often the case, science merely confirmed what those in the field were already wary of. 

“Firefighters know this is happening,” Mahood said. “We’re just documenting it and looking at the data.”

Brian Oliver, Boulder Fire-Rescue’s Wildland Chief, said that on a smaller scale it’s harder to see broad trends, though some recent fires have certainly adhered to data shown in the study. “There are plenty of times when conditions don’t moderate at night,” Oliver said. “The Marshall Fire is a good example. But the NCAR Fire, that first night things did calm down quite a bit. The second night we got some intensity but we were already in the mop-up phase.”

Oliver noted that the recent fire near Wonderland Lake on June 17 continued to burn with vigor through the night due to high fuel loads and humidity remaining low.

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BRL Picks

🧱 Pearl Street Arts Festival: The four-decade downtown tradition returns to the Pearl Street Mall on July 15–17 for another celebration of all things art. Featuring more than 90 artists, the Open Studios Mobile Art Lab and plenty of opportunities to explore local galleries, the three-day blowout is a can’t-miss for art lovers of all stripes. Hours and more info here.

🎪 Art at River Bend: In the mood for even more art-forward fun? Lyons hosts its anticipated Art at River Bend event on Sunday, July 17, noon–7 p.m, along the North Saint Vrain Creek. Presented in collaboration between the Boulder County Arts Alliance, Lyons Arts and Humanities Commission and the Town of Lyons, the free event will feature plenty of arts and crafts, food and drink vendors, fun activities for kids, live art demos and a whole lot more.

🎵 Sound of the summer: Does it get better than music outdoors on a summer night? The city’s Concerts in the Parks series continues tonight with its slate of free performances from the historic Boulder Concert Band, whose roots go back to 1870. Tonight’s performance takes place at Scott Carpenter Park, 7–8 p.m.

🎞️ Movies and mountains: The Boulder Environmental/Nature/Outdoors Film Festival takes place July 14–17, featuring four days of narrative, documentary features and short films exploring all things outdoors. Don’t miss the opening reception at Hilton Garden Inn Boulder’s outdoor courtyard on Thursday, July 14 at 5:30 p.m., followed by a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary River (2021) at the Dairy at 7:30 p.m.

Covid-19 Updates: July 11, 2022

  • 147 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 35% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 19 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from a high of 21 last week.
  • 48% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 67% since July 2020.
  • Note: Stazio Ball Fields is now the only community testing site in Boulder County.

What We’re Reading

📖 Can Colorado Dems hold onto their advantage in the legislature? “The Colorado Senate is likely where Republicans have their best shot this year of taking back some control of state government from Democrats after four years in the minority of the legislative and executive branches. While the GOP will try to win a majority in the Colorado House and unseat Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the odds are stacked against them in those two arenas. That leaves the 35-member Senate as the most plausible place to turn the tide.” [Colorado Sun]

📖 Boulder teams up with students to research history of park names: Boulder Parks and Recreation Department (BPR) worked with 70 undergraduate and graduate students at CU Boulder’s Department of History to research the history behind 82 park names and the stories behind them. “The purpose was to find missing stories and see how they reflect the community’s values…BPR plans to continue studying park names to ensure they reflect the city’s” Racial Equity Plan. [CPR]

📖 Inside Denver’s new safe-camping pallet shelters: “Crafted by Pallet, a company in Washington state, the shelter is made of pre-fabricated panels that are fairly easy to put together in an hour or two. The resulting structure can harbor people after natural disasters, as well as individuals experiencing homelessness. The one that I stayed in had a vaulted nine-foot ceiling, four windows, a bed with a mattress and a door that locked. It also had an air conditioner, a heater, a light and electrical outlets.” [Westword]

ICYMI from BRL

🏪 Mental Health Partners restores hours at its 24/7 walk-in crisis center. Since February, the county’s only dedicated facility for people experiencing a mental health emergency has been closed on weekends. It’s now open around the clock, but the underlying staffing shortage that prompted the reduction in services remains, according to the nonprofit.

🥕 Facing supply chain snarls and increased demand, Boulder food banks are having trouble keeping shelves stocked. Here’s how to help. Local food assistance programs have fewer options for those in need this summer, and they’re turning to the community for relief.

🗳️ Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann poised to win race for Boulder County commissioner. With the latest batch of Democratic primary votes showing Stolzmann ahead by a razor-thin, 68-vote margin, her opponent, Elaina Shively, has conceded.

🎆 A year later, riot on Boulder’s University Hill spurs recommendations for stricter anti-noise ordinance and other measures. The University Hill Revitalization Working Group was tasked by the previous Boulder City Council with improving ‘quality of life’ on the Hill after a party-turned-riot damaged vehicles, led to arrests and reignited long-running tensions between local homeowners and students.

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Have a story tip for us?
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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.