Skip to contents
Opinion Columns

Opinion: The Marshall fire showed climate change has come to our backyard

It is infinitely better to prevent a fire than it is to help the victims deal with their loss

I have a growing realization that all of humanity is interconnected and utterly interdependent.

Marcel Arsenault

As we contemplate the eerie vacuum of space where our homes once stood in Superior, I fear for future victims of floods and fires. I fear for humanity and the planet we have been entrusted with.

I wonder whether humanity can heed the warning calls of climate change. And whether we can learn to cooperate and make decisions for the longer term. We can no longer follow the status quo of arguing, kicking the can down the road, and hoping that the next wildfire or flood is someone else’s problem.

Colorado’s Marshall Fire destroyed my community and our home of 41 years, a house built in 1894 by the son of the founder of Superior. This wonderful house and the 20 towering ash trees planted by the Hake family were entrusted in our care. Every summer, we enjoyed the shade of these 125-year-old trees that provided natural air conditioning.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

As the ancient Greeks advised: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit under.”

This wildfire did not merely wipe out our home and trees. When the Marshall Fire ravaged Old Town Superior, my family failed the Hake family. Reflecting on Greek advice, I now question our greatness.

Myopia is not just an American problem. Many societies are myopic, failing to plan for the future. The wildfire was a warning sign, a swift and brutal sign that climate change is here, now. Right in my yard.

I believe that we, in Superior and Louisville, are among the increasing number of climate-change victims. The governments here today are helping. We are resilient, and we will rebuild, which is a beautiful part of the American spirit. I stand with all my neighbors in solidarity of loss and the knowledge that we will make it through this together.

While we will rebuild and create new memories, we also understand that nothing can replace what so many have lost.

While the cause of the fire is still being determined, it came after the worst December drought in 87 years. Dry grass fields created the incendiary conditions for this tragedy. It is a reminder that climate change ultimately will spare no one.

The solution depends upon collective action at the highest levels. We know that our planet is warming. Our climate is becoming more volatile, as we have seen from California to Kentucky to Virginia to Colorado. To the north, in British Columbia, wildfires also destroyed an entire town.

We saw a rapid response across all governmental sectors, first responders, and community institutions, emphasizing that we can come together in a crisis. The greater Colorado community and nation at large have poured out support for our community.

But I cannot shake the sad observation: It is infinitely better to prevent a fire than it is to help the victims deal with their loss.

Sympathy and donations are great. But the world needs vision and leadership. Coordinated action between government, philanthropy, civil society, and the private sector has the power to create a better future: a common future. A future that prevents unnecessary fires and floods by addressing climate change now. We must learn to work together across all sectors of societies and the dangerous political divide we face.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Solutions take long-term thinking and coordinated leadership to quickly act on systemic measures to address our climate crisis.

I am grateful and delighted that senior leadership is showing up and listening. I applaud President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, along with Gov. Jared Polis and other leaders who came to Superior last week, for joining us in Superior to lend their support.

I hope we can all rise beyond the political divide that threatens our society and tarnishes its greatness. I know it is possible. My hope is that it will not take more such fires and floods before enough of us wake up, own the problem and take action.


Marcel Arsenault is a 41-year resident of Superior.


The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to opinion@coloradosun.com

Follow Colorado Sun Opinion on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.


We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable. This reporting depends on support from readers like you.


We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable. This reporting depends on support from readers like you.