Above: The dispatch and logistics building at Grand Junction as seen from one of the retardant pits.
Last week while in Grand Junction, Colorado I visited the headquarters for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire and Aviation Management Unit (UCR). The interagency organization handles wildland fire responsibilities for over 4.5 million acres of land in Colorado along the Interstate 70 corridor from the Continental Divide on the east to the Utah state line on the west. The UCR is comprised of the Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction Field Offices of the Bureau of Land Management; Grand Valley Ranger District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests; and the White River National Forest.
Sarah Culhane, the Aviation Manager, and Christopher Joyner, a BLM Public Affairs Specialist, showed me around the facilities at the airport, including the Air Tanker Base and a building that houses the logistics and dispatching functions.
Typically Grand Junction is not used as an administrative base for any air tankers, but depending on the need they can be staged there in times of high wildfire potential or if it is needed as a retardant reload base during fire activity.
Reporting to Ms. Culhane this year at the tanker base will be a Base Manager, an Assistant Base Manager, a Ramp Manager, and an intern.
A similar situation exists for smokejumpers. Almost every year jumpers are positioned at Grand Junction along with an aircraft for extended periods of time.
Don Scronek, the Dispatch Center Manager, said in an average year they will have about 250 wildfires in the UCR, and a very busy year will see twice that many. While he was describing the dispatch organization I saw behind him on a white board in his office:
Hope is Not A Strategy
The UCR cooperates with state agencies, local communities and fire departments on a wide range of activities including fuels treatments, fire prevention and fire suppression.
In the UCR organization under Fire Management Officer Robert Berger and Deputy Unit FMO Josh Tibbetts, are three Zone FMOs for the West, Central, and East Zones.