Colorado Springs Fire Chief to retire

President Obama at Waldo Canyon Fire
President Barack Obama views fire damage with firefighters and elected officials at the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza; click to enlarge)

Rich Brown, the Chief of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, has announced his retirement. Even though he has been criticized for the way the fire department handled the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire that killed two residents and burned 347 homes, some employees within the city’s administration have said that Chief Brown is simply done, and ready for retirement after serving for 32 years. He became Chief in December, 2011, and his retirement is effective April 30, but he will remain on the city’s payroll as a consultant for six months at his annual salary of $147,657 plus benefits, according to an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

A person could wonder if Chief Brown’s job has been a lot less fun since the details about how his department responded to the Waldo Canyon fire have become public.

An excellent article in the Colorado Springs Independent last December was written after an examination of hundreds of documents including reports written by firefighters working on the fire. If the article is correct, and I have no reason to believe it is not, it exposes complete failures in pre-incident planning, qualification and training of fire department personnel, evacuation planning and execution, logistics, daily incident planning, strategy, and tactics. Apparently this large, modern city with an extensive, very vulnerable wildland-urban interface was completely unprepared to manage a large wildland fire and evacuations.

The article does not criticize firefighters. It points out the failures in preparedness and management of the fire by upper level officials, before, during, and after the incident.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.