Colorado: Beaver Creek Fire

Campers are being evacuated from dispersed areas.

Above: Beaver Creek Fire June 20, 2016. USFS photo by Alison Richards.

(UPDATE at 10:42 p.m. MDT June 22, 2016)

On Wednesday afternoon the Beaver Creek Fire northwest of Walden, Colorado was very active again, almost doubling in size to 7,000 acres. The fire spread further to the east, becoming well established on Independence Mountain.

The evacuation orders implemented on Tuesday are still in place.

The “Blue” Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team with Incident Commander Jay Esperance will assume command of the fire at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday.

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(Originally published at 2:48 p.m. MDT June 22, 2016)

In the four days that the Beaver Creek Fire has been burning 20 miles northwest of Walden, Colorado it has grown to 3,800 acres. Most of those acres were accumulated on Tuesday.

A wind shift on Tuesday afternoon drove the fire to the east, pushing it across two main roads and establishing spot fires on BLM-managed Independence Mountain. The majority of the Beaver Creek Fire remains on the Routt National Forest in northwest Jackson County, Colo about 1 mile south of the Wyoming border.

Local fire staff were working late Tuesday with Jackson County and the BLM to evacuate dispersed campers on Independence Mountain.

(Click on the images below to see larger versions.)

weather Beaver Creek Fire
Weather forecast for the area of the Beaver Creek Fire. NWS.

The weather on Wednesday and Thursday will be moderate, but will become more problematic on Friday and Saturday with humidities around 20 percent, 10 mph southwest or west winds gusting up to 17 mph, and a chance of thunderstorms.

map Beaver Creek Fire
Vicinity map of the Beaver Creek Fire.
Beaver Creek Fire 3-D map
3-D map of the Beaver Creek looking SW. Perimeter data from 9 p.m. June 21, 2016. CO Div. Fire Prev. & Control.
Beaver Creek Fire
Beaver Creek Fire June 20, 2016. USFS photo by Alison Richards.

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

Fire mapping plane assists in rescue of 10 military personnel

Search and rescue operation underway in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Longs Peak map
3-D map of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, 10 miles southwest of Estes Park, Colorado. Google Earth.

(UPDATED at 2:10 p.m. MDT, June 3, 2016)

Helicopter rescue hikers
A helicopter extracts military personnel from the summit of Longs Peak at 1:42 p.m. MDT, June 3, 2016. Screen grab from TheDenverChannel video.

Ten soldiers, some of them with the 10th Special Forces Group based at Fort Carson, are being rescued from Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Between 1:30 and 2 p.m. MDT TheDenverChannel streamed live video of a helicopter extracting personnel from the summit of the peak which is about 48 miles northwest of downtown Denver.

Kyle Patterson, a public affairs officer for the Park, said the state’s Pilatus PC-12 Multi-Mission Aircraft was used for reconnaissance. At 12:19 p.m. MDT she stated:

Late last night, Rocky Mountain National Park staff were notified that a group of ten people were requesting assistance on Kiener’s Route on Longs Peak.  The group consists of a variety of military personnel affiliated with Fort Carson.  This group was involved in a climbing training.  A few members reported having some degree of distress and were having difficulty continuing up the route. The group was not planning to over-night in the area.  The group continues to self-rescue by assisting each other to climb to the summit of Longs Peak.

Park rangers are planning evacuation efforts from the summit of Longs Peak via helicopter, weather and conditions permitting.  Rangers are also planning to assist the group to the summit, if needed.  There are forty-three park personnel affiliated with this incident.  Helicopter operations have taken place within the last hour to help with reconnaissance efforts.

Lt. Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the 10th Special Forces Group based at Fort Carson, confirmed this is a Green Beret unit.

Ryan said two members of the group got altitude sickness. He stressed that no one is missing and that altitude sickness can be a factor in mountain training.

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(Originally published at 12:11 p.m. MDT, June 3, 2016)

An aircraft normally used for detecting and mapping wildfires has been mobilized to assist in the rescue of 10 overdue military personnel in Rocky Mountain National Park. The location is centered around Longs Peak which is 10 miles southwest of Estes Park, Colorado and about 48 miles northwest of downtown Denver.

This is a developing story which we will update as more information is available.

According to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, one of their recently acquired Pilatus PC-12 Multi-Mission Aircraft is being used in the search. Sensors on the planes can detect and map the location of fires and transmit near real-time spatial data, still images, and short video clips to the Colorado Wildfire Information Management System (CO-WIMS), a web-based situational awareness platform. The infrared sensors may be able to detect the heat signatures given off by the overdue personnel. As you can see by the 3-D map above, the Longs Peak area is very steep and rugged, a difficult area for ground searchers to cover.

PIlatus PC-12 Colorado
One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft” at McClellan Air Field, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Colorado's Pilatus PC-12 "Multi-mission Aircraft"
Guy Jones, one of the pilots for Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft”, explains the sensing capabilities of the aircraft’s equipment at McClellan Air Field, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Colorado researching methods for transmitting near real-time fire information to firefighters

Above: One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft” at McClellan Air Field, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Colorado’s Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting is requesting information from vendors who could supply equipment that would transmit from aircraft near real-time information about wildfires directly to firefighters on the ground.

The state’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control recently acquired two Pilatus PC-12 Multi-Mission Aircraft. Sensors on the planes can detect and map the location of fires and transmit near real-time spatial data, still images, and short video clips to the Colorado Wildfire Information Management System (CO-WIMS), a web-based situational awareness platform. Fire managers can log into CO-WIMS to view fire perimeters and the other data generated by the aircraft. Firefighters on the ground who have access to the system can view the information as long as they have a good 4G cellular connection. However, many remote areas do not have cellular service.

Colorado’s Request for Information is asking for descriptions and prices of systems that could get this data directly into the hands of firefighters actively engaged in suppressing a fire. Responses are due by June 13, 2016.

This could supply half of the Holy Grail of Wildland Firefighter Safety, providing to firefighters near real-time information about the location of a fire. The other half is near real-time information about the location of firefighters.

Colorado's Pilatus PC-12 "Multi-mission Aircraft"
Guy Jones, one of the pilots for Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 “Multi-mission Aircraft”, explains the sensing capabilities of the aircraft’s equipment at McClellan Air Field, March 23, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

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

Brush Fire Department

Above: the Brush! Fire Department in Brush, Colorado. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

I have driven through the town of Brush, Colorado several times and each time I thought about the name of the fire department. I casually looked along Highway 71 as I passed through hoping the FD would be on the main north-south road, but didn’t see it.

A couple of weeks ago as I drove through the town on the way to Colorado Springs I decided to hunt down the fire department. It didn’t take long to spot the Brush! Volunteer Fire Department on the west side of town on Edison Street/Highway 34. And I finally got the photo I wanted. After leaving it occurred to me that I should have knocked on the door and asked about the exclamation point — “Brush!”.

I wonder how many other cities are named after a type of vegetation, and thus have a (vegetation) Fire Department like Brush? There’s Forest, Mississippi and the Forest Fire Department. Anyone know of others?

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.

states ban sky lanterns

There 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.