By Raetta Holdman

(CBS4) – CBS4 Meteorologist Ashton Altieri is among the TV meteorologists who gathered for “Operation Sierra Storm” to discuss weather and climate-related topics like hurricanes and tornadoes. This year that conference also included our devastating wildfires.

That conference is held at Heavenly Resort in South Lake Tahoe, an area hard hit by the Caldor Fire last year. That fire burned more than 200,000 acres, leaving the area vacant for months.

The group also took up the devastating Marshall Fire that raced through southeastern Boulder County on Dec. 30. Altieri had a chance to talk with Dr. Daniel McEvoy with the Desert Research Institute at the Western Regional Climate Center.

He asked directly about extreme weather events like the Marshall firestorm being tied to human-caused climate change.

(credit: CBS)

“The setup and the wildfire potential, there’s a very strong connection to climate change,” McEvoy said. “It’s a very straight forward connection that the increasing temperatures lead to more rapid drying of the land surface. So that connection is very clear.”

Another part of the equation is where people are building homes.

(credit: CBS)

“Where these fires are occurring related to what’s called the WUI (or) Wildland Urban Interface. More and more communities are building homes in these areas that haven’t had homes in the past but have had fires in the past.”

In the case of the Marshall Fire, the number of homes, the dry conditions and the strong winds on Dec. 30 all combined to create a “domesticated firestorm” the likes of which Colorado had not seen before.

Raetta Holdman