There would be 8,400 gallons of diesel fuel, 13,000 pounds of explosives per week, 50+ workers and delivery people, and mining equipment 1.5 miles southwest of Canon City limits and in a tinderbox (called Fremont County).
YMCA Mountain Fire as seen from
Canon City on July 8, 2020
According to the most recent permit application, Zephyr has not yet provided a Fire Protection Plan.
Fire could result from man-made issues (such as cigarettes), machinery failures (truck catches on fire or creates sparks), diesel fuel, or unexpected explosive events. The current application states:
"Bottom portion of the filtered water tank will be dedicated to storing sufficient volume of water for firefighting."
The mining site is west of the county's populated areas, and winds generally blow from west to east. There is no specified fire protection plan in the permit application, and there are no assurances of stopping a fire before it becomes a wildfire heading east.
WILDFIRES AND FLOODS
Floods that follow wildfires are one of the unrecognized risks of fires that impact mines. The floods flow over mine sites and expose toxic materials, which are then washed downstream. This risk occurred in Colorado after the massive Front Range floods of 2013, when dozens of historic mine sites were flooded and sediments carried off-site.
COMMUNITY WILDFIRE PROTECTION PLAN
In February 2014 (less than a year after the disastrous Royal Gorge Fire) a Community Wildfire Protection Plan was published with the focus on southwest Canon City. You can download the report HERE.
These statements are from the report.
"Low fuel moistures and low relative humidity are common in the area, as are periods of high winds.
When dry and windy conditions coincide the stage is set for large, troublesome wildfires."
"Fires originating in or near the community are of most immediate concern, but fires starting well
beyond the boundaries of the planning area can have profound effects. Rapid rates of spread and
long distance spotting (starting a new fire by windblown embers) are the norms for fires in the
"Spot fires will likely ignite up to a half mile from the flaming front. Crown fires are likely to spread at 0.34 miles per hour."
WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM?
In the August 20, 2021, Canon City Daily Record interview, Will Felderhof, executive chairman for Zephyr Minerals, stated, "I don't think there are any fires attributed to modern mining that I can recall."
A publicly available geospatial data suggests otherwise. This data is generated by the Forest Service and is located at https://data.fs.usda.gov/geodata/edw/datasets.php. The specific dataset reviewed is the Fire Perimeter data for the entire United States. Within this data, we found 70 fires dating from 1919 through 2020 that have a word associated with mining in their name (Mine, Rock Quarry, Gravel Pit, Coal Seam, Oil Field). Click HERE to read more.
While the annual number of mine fires continues to slowly decrease, mine fires remain a significant problem. For instance, for the years 2010 and 2011, there were a total of 89 metal/nonmetal fires. The main causes of mine fires include flame cutting and welding operations, friction, electrical shorts, mobile equipment malfunctions, and spontaneous combustion.Source: www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/topics/fires.html