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Opinion: The fire in my legislative district had roots in the fossil fuels we put in our cars

Preventing another Marshall Fire will require reducing greenhouse gases. And that’s just the start.

Last week, we experienced Colorado’s most destructive fire in its history. It ripped through the heart of our communities, leaving a devastating path of destruction in its wake.

State Rep. Tracey Bernett

Tens of thousands of people, including myself, were forced to evacuate, and more than 1,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. I spent the days following the fire working with state and local organizations to help spread information and provide recovery support.

This was a traumatic experience, and it leaves many wondering, why did this happen?

For me, this is a story all too familiar. In the last decade I have been a part of three major climate-disaster recovery efforts.

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In 2012 I traveled to New York for the New York City Marathon. However, just as I was arriving, Hurricane Sandy swept through the region. The marathon was canceled, but I stayed and worked as part of the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

A year later, right here at home, I helped my friends and community rebuild their lives after the devastating floods that tore through Boulder County. Now, in the aftermath of the Marshall Fire, I find myself with similar feelings. These disasters are becoming more frequent and more destructive as a result of the worsening climate crisis.

Climate change impacts everything in our lives. Whether it is these large events that leave huge paths of destruction, or the daily struggles of worsening air quality.

We must fight this crisis on every level, from actions we can take as individuals, to those we take as a community, as a state, as a nation, and as humanity, to ensure that we protect our communities from future disasters.

As the state representative for much of the impacted area, I am committed to ensuring my constituents and my community have the resources needed to recover in the near future and in the long haul.

But that is just the start. I am committed to helping not only my community, but all of Colorado, grow a smarter, more sustainable, and more resilient future.

First, it starts with making sure we stop the problem from getting worse, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. By building up our economy and infrastructure in a sustainable way, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas being released into the atmosphere and prevent this climate crisis from worsening.

Unfortunately, even if we succeed in this goal, because of many failures of our leaders over the past two decades, this will not be enough.

We must work to capture and sequester existing carbon in our atmosphere. We also must understand that with the current and worsening state of our climate, it is imperative to build a more resilient infrastructure to mitigate and withstand these climate disasters.

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Finally, while achieving these goals, we must be inclusive because, too often, sustainability and resiliency come at a price too high for many to afford.

For those who are impacted by these fires, please feel free to reach out to my office with any questions you may have. Thank you to everyone who has donated or provided assistance to those in need. There are so many resources available to help.

The road to recovery is long, but we have done it before, and as a community we will come together and rebuild what has been lost.


Tracey Bernett, of Louisville, represents Colorado’s 12th District in the state House of Representatives. Office contact: (303) 866-2920; tracey.bernett.house@state.co.us


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