This CPR article discusses how underground coal seams can burn for decades. Here’s How Officials Keep Colorado’s 38 Fires Under Control.
A coal seam fire burning in southwestern Colorado grabbed national attention last month when U.S. Forest Service rangers discovered it had ignited a full year ago.
Rangers posited that it was set ablaze during the 2018 Plateau Fire, and simmered in relative obscurity in the heavily forested area along the Dolores-Montezuma county line.
The state, with the help of Tafi [senior project manager with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety], is keeping tabs on these long-lived underground fires, all 38 of them. Some can burn for as long as 100 years. As more people move into Colorado, the state is keeping an eye on the fires that are closest to population centers, and has designated six as high priority and in need of special attention.