By Jennifer Oldham for ProPublica
This story was originally published by ProPublica.
Colorado’s snowcapped Rockies towered in the distance on a crisp April day as firefighter Emilio Palestro used a torch to ignite damp prairie grass within view of a nearby farmhouse and a suburban neighborhood.
Propelled by a breeze, orange flames crackled up a ditch bank, devouring a thick mat of dead grass, cornhusks and weeds. It was neither too windy, nor too humid, nor too hot — a rare goldilocks moment for firefighters to safely clear irrigation ditches of weeds, grasses and brush that can block the flow of water and spread wildfire.
“At this time of year, it’s a race against what we call green-up,” said Seth McKinney, fire management officer for the Boulder…
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