Colorado to use new system to predict wildland fire behavior

Janice Coen Gov. John Hickenlooper sign bill

Gov. John Hickenlooper traveled to an Arvada fire station to sign the bill that will implement a wildfire prediction system. Dr. Janice Coen, one of the developers of the system, is on the left. Photo provided by COHOUSEDEMS.

The Governor of Colorado signed a bill Wednesday that authorizes the state to spend $1.2 million over the next two years on a “revolutionary” wildfire prediction system that uses weather data, groundbreaking computer modeling, and high resolution satellite imagery to predict the spread of fires up to 18 hours in advance.

Below is an excerpt from an article at the (Colorado Springs) Gazette:

…”This bill will predict the intensity and the direction of fires 12 to 18 hours ahead of time. That is really important so we know where to direct our planes, the aircraft we had a bill for last year, and our firefighters,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, who introduced the bill. “This is really revolutionary.”

Under the new law, the Division of Fire Prevention and Control will contract with a nonprofit Colorado-based research organization with expertise in atmospheric science to predict wildfire behavior. The National Center for Atmospheric Research, a federally funded program headquartered in Boulder, is the only state agency that meets that criteria. NCAR has used modeling to accurately recreate the behavior of historic fires, including the Yarnell Hill fire that killed 19 Arizona firefighters in 2013.

She said the new technology could be in place by next spring and will work with the state’s new aerial fire fleet, a multimillion-dollar investment into wildfire detecting and fighting aircraft lawmakers made in 2013…

Janice Coen at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is one of the scientists working on this program. We have written about her work previously:

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Barbara.


Colorado governor signs two wildfire-related bills

From the Durango Herald:

Gov. John Hickenlooper [of Colorado signed] two wildfire-related bills Tuesday in Durango.

[The bills were] the Veterans Fire Corps for Wildfire Fighting bill and the Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program, according to FireWise, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce the risk of wildfires. Both bills were sponsored by State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

The Veterans Fire Corps bill authorizes the state to spend money providing training to Veterans Fire Corps, resulting in more year-round firefighting capacity.

The Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program provides funding for hazardous fuels removal and equipment. FireWise and other groups received almost $777,000 in grant money in 2013-14.


Shooters cause 250-acre fire in Colorado

The U.S. Forest Service has determined that a 250-acre fire in the Pike National Forest was caused by shooting. The Snyder Creek 2 fire was first reported Sunday afternoon three miles southeast of Kenosha Pass near Park County Road 56 approximately 19 miles North of Fairplay. There was a fire in the same area in 2011.

Firefighters battled 20 to 30 mph winds on Sunday, but expect full containment by Monday evening.

Snyder Creek 2 fire

Photo of the Snyder Creek Fire, by Park County Sheriff’s Office.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Rick and Bean.


Colorado man’s controlled burn triggers evacuations

A southern Colorado man was cited on Saturday for arson, after a possible private controlled burn got out of control on the grassy plains east of Colorado Springs.

The small fire near Ellicott prompted evacuations in the communities of Ellicott and Peyton — at first evacuations were mandatory, until firefighters started to contain the burn and evacuation orders were relaxed to voluntary.

The fire sparked around 5:30 p.m. and spread to 150 acres in less than two hours, KOAA news in Colorado Springs reported.  The blaze was quickly contained by 7 p.m., and the homeowner who allegedly started the fire cited with fourth-degree arson, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Colorado Springs is home to the state’s most destructive fires. In 2012, the Waldo Canyon fire burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs and killed two people. Almost exactly a year later, the Black Forest fire ignited east of Colorado Springs, and went to burn more than 15,000 acres, 486 homes and kill two people.

This year, El Paso County in southern Colorado has already had several small grass fires, although Saturday’s fire was the first this year to threaten homes.


Premier of short film: “Unacceptable Risk”

This trailer is about a short film that will premier February 24, 2015 at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, Colorado on 26th Street, between Canyon Boulevard and Walnut Street.

Here is how the film is described:

“Celebrate the premiere of Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change – a short film, featuring local firefighters who have battled many of Colorado’s epic fires of the past decade.

Our wildland firefighters are witnessing climate change impacts in their daily lives. Unacceptable Risk examines how these climate changes are transforming Colorado’s fire environment, bringing higher temperatures, drier fuels, and diseases to forests, which combine to create volatile conditions for firefighters and communities.

Following the screening, firefighters, climate scientists, and the filmmakers will join the audience for a conversation about ways that Coloradans can work together to address climate change and the growing threat of wildfires.

A reception will follow in The Dairy’s McMahon Gallery. The gallery is currently featuring an exhibition inspired by climate-related issues, entitled “Fire and Rain,” by Colorado-based artist Mary-Ann Kokoska, who will speak about her work.

The film is produced by The Story Group, a Boulder-based company.”

Admission is free.


Colorado: man fleeing cops drives on rims, sparks grass fire

Castle Rock Fire Colorado State Patrol photoA driver suspected of being intoxicated failed to stop for police Friday night and led them on a chase on and off Interstate 25 in the Castle Rock area south of Denver (map). While trying to escape from the cops, he crashed into four other vehicles, one in a parking lot and three more on the Interstate.

Officers deployed stop sticks which flattened his tires but he kept going, eventually running on just the wheel rims, leaving a shower of sparks behind which ignited a grass fire. The suspected drunk driver and two crash victims in other vehicles were transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Police have identified the driver as Garrett Neugebauer, 41, of Peyton, Colorado. He faces 18 charges.

The photos were provided by the Colorado State Patrol.

Castle Rock Fire Castle Rock Fire