New Director chosen for Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control

Mike Morgan named the next Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control

Governor Hickenlooper and Chief Mike Morgan
Chief Mike Morgan (right) with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper at the announcement about proposed wildfire legislation January 23, 2014. Governor’s office photo.
Mike Morgan, Chief of Colorado River Fire Rescue, has been selected as the next Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. He will replace the current director, Paul Cooke, who announced his retirement on February 1, 2016.

Chief Morgan’s first fire service position was as a volunteer with the Rifle Colorado Fire Department in 1986. Five years later he became their first full-time employee. Today he is the chief of Colorado River Fire Rescue which was formed in 2014 when the Burning Mountains Fire Protection District and Rifle Fire Protection District merged.

Colorado River Fire Rescue
Colorado River Fire Rescue photo.

The department’s web site lists 37 full time firefighters, 22 part time, and 15 volunteers in addition to an administrative staff.

Chief Morgan has been very active in the Colorado State Fire Chiefs (CSFC) association. When he was president of the group in 2013 they issued a nine-page position paper with recommendations for the Interim Committee on Wildfire Matters. At the time the state was reorganizing their fire organization. The CSFC’s top four recommendations were:

  1. Insure the stability and reliability of the current Colorado state-wide emergency radio system.
  2. Continue to invest in the development, expansion & implementation of the State resource mobilization plan.
  3. Expand the current local, regional and State command, control, and coordination capabilities.
  4. Provide sufficient funding to the Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) to fulfill its stated missions.

Chief Morgan believes the Division of Fire Prevention and Control is the focal point for Colorado’s fire prevention and suppression efforts, and should find new and innovative ways to serve its customers. When asked what his desire is for his new position, he said, “to represent all of Colorado’s fire service, large and small, and to unify our voice to protect the residents, visitors, and responders of our great state”.

Chief Morgan
In a video posted online by Colorado River Fire Rescue, Chief Mike Morgan (left) congratulates a firefighter.

If the videos Colorado River Fire Rescue has posted online are any indication, Chief Morgan runs a department that is not afraid of having a lighthearted social media presence.

In some of the videos, firefighters mouth the words to well-known songs, including Adele’s Hello. In another the Chief pins a badge on a firefighter after he supposedly rescues a cat in a tree.

Chief Morgan will assume his new responsibilities following a formal Transfer of Command Ceremony on April 22, 2016.

Sky lantern starts wildfire in Colorado

Report says three sky lanterns were released — one started a fire.

Sky Lantern banned mapThere is a report that a sky lantern started a wildfire in Colorado on Saturday, March 12. A writer on Pinecam.com said that between 11:00 and 11:45 p.m. one of three of the devices that were released landed in vegetation and started a small brush fire. It occurred near Pine Grove, which is another name for Pine, Colorado. (map)

If this had happened in August rather than March, we might be writing a different story. The town is at 6,700 feet elevation, so there’s a good chance that the fuels are still somewhat wet or there could be snow. Nearby ridges are at 7,000 to 8,000 feet.

Sky lanterns were blamed for starting other fires just last month. One near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin burned 15 acres and another is thought to have ignited a four-plex structure in Santa Rosa, California.

Sky lanterns are banned statewide in 30 states, but not in Colorado.

These devices are small plastic or paper-covered hot air balloons powered by an open flame. They can travel uncontrolled for more than a mile, sometimes landing while the fire is still burning.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged sky lantern.

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

Colorado lays out plans for development of wildfire decision support system

The decision support system that Colorado is developing is expected to provide frequently updated fine-scale predictions of weather that affects wildfires, and the behavior of going fires. It will use heat detected by satellites and hourly weather forecast updates from the National Weather Service to produce maps showing fire managers where multiple fires are expected to spread in the next 12 to 18 hours.

Much of the work is being done under contract for the state by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a federally funded program headquartered in Boulder, in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The organizations have distributed a detailed briefing document on the development schedule and a time line for deliverables, which you can read HERE (1.9 MB).

Below are a few images from the document.

Colorado Decision Support System

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Colorado Decision Support System

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Colorado Decision Support System

We have criticized the state of Colorado for not having their crap together for organizing and planning for the management of wildfires or for on-the-ground fire suppression, but they are developing some significant resources for gathering intelligence with their new fixed wing aircraft and now with this decision support system that will provide frequently updated predictions of fire spread using state of the art technology.

Their next logical step is to develop a management system and the firefighting resources to make use of this wealth of information. While there are some firefighting organizations that could use this data to their advantage and convert it to actions on the fire ground, at this stage it’s like *putting lipstick on a pig, at least within the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

*In 1992 Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas, said at a South Dakota barbecue, “You can put lipstick on a hog and call it Monique, but it is still a pig”.

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

One company’s solution to tracking firefighting resources in real time

Firefighting agencies that are uncomfortable sending wildland firefighters into dangerous areas without knowing in real time exactly where they are in relation to the flaming front of the fire now have more choices about how to avoid this dangerous practice that has contributed to the deaths of more than two dozen firefighters.

This video by the Southern Rockies Fire Science Network describes a collaborative project between the City of Boulder, Colorado and PAR Government to work toward what we have called the Holy Grail of Firefighter Safety — knowing the real time location of personnel and the fire.

This and the efforts of other companies along the same lines are making it more difficult for firefighting agencies to find excuses for their failure to implement solutions similar to this. I’m looking at YOU, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Fish and Wildlife Service — as well as the state fire organizations that employ large numbers of wildland firefighters. Leadership is needed NOW to develop standards so that the tracking systems deployed are interoperable.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged “holy grail“.

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

Changes at the state fire chief positions in Colorado and Montana

There will be transitions at the top of the state wildfire organizations in Colorado and Montana.

In Colorado, Paul Cooke, the Director of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control, is retiring. He became the Director in 2012 after the Colorado legislature and Governor Hickenlooper made major changes in the organization and structure of state-level fire and life safety programs. Chief Cooke will remain in the position until his successor is appointed and onboard.

In Montana the Department of Natural Resources & Conservation (DNRC) recently selected Mike DeGrosky as the new Fire and Aviation Bureau Chief following the retirement of Ted Mead in December. The Fire and Aviation Management Bureau provides resources, leadership and coordination to Montana’s wildland fire services to protect lives, property, and natural resources; working with local, tribal, state, and federal partners to ensure wildfire protection on all state and private land in Montana.

“Our effort to involve a number of DNRC staff members as well as external partners was met with support and enthusiastic participation across the state, and I found it both rewarding and inspiring to see so many people engaged in the process. We offered Mike DeGrosky the position and he accepted enthusiastically. The DNRC welcomes Mike and is excited to have him join our team,” said Bob Harrington, Forestry Division Administrator.

Mike comes back to DNRC with over 38 years of wildland fire and incident management experience as well as extensive experience in facilitation, consulting, and conflict resolution experience in wildland fire and natural resource organizations.

From 1982-1995 Mike worked for the DNRC in various positions including Rural Fire Forester, Fire Management Specialist, Unit Fire Supervisor and Fire Program Manager. Other services and roles in his career include Volunteer Fire Department Captain, Training Officer, and consultant to fire and emergency management organizations.

DeGrosky is a graduate of the University of Montana, College of Forestry and Conservation, holds a Master’s degree in organizational leadership from Fort Hays State University, and a PhD in Business Administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership from Northcentral University.

“I am looking forward to working with each of you. I will put a high priority on getting out and meeting local officials, fire service organizations and agency partners. I am pleased to be back with the Department and look forward to our work together,” DeGrosky said.

He began working part-time in late January and will assume the duties as Chief full time on February 8, 2016.

Colorado Wildland Fire Management Section Chief selected

Vaughn Jones
Vaughn Jones. CO DFPC photo.

Vaughn Jones as been selected as the Section Chief of the Wildland Fire Management Section of Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Paul Cooke, Director the agency announced today. Mr. Vaughn has held the position on an acting basis for the past seven months.

“I am pleased I had four qualified finalists from which to make a selection and I am certain that Vaughn was the best choice for the job” said Director Cooke.

Until his appointment as acting Section Chief on May 15, 2015, Mr. Vaughn served as the Branch Chief of Operations, a position he held since transferring to DFPC. Before that he was the Northeast Area Fire Management Officer with the Colorado State Forest Service for 8 years and an Assistant District Forester with the CSFS Golden District for 6 years.

Prior to working for the State, he held forestry, range, and wildfire positions with the U.S. Forest Service on the White River National Forest and Pawnee National Grassland. Mr. Vaughn holds a B.S Degree in Natural Resource Management and a Master’s Degree in Ecology, both from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. His experience includes serving as a member of the Rocky Mountain Area Type 1 and Type 2 Incident Management Teams.