Colorado will provide wildland firefighting resources this year that have not been available previously. The state has always been one of the least progressive or proactive in providing wildfire suppression resources and management. They have instead relied on local firefighters (who sometimes are very skilled) and an antiquated system in which the County Sheriff is responsible for fire suppression on non-federal land. Few County Sheriffs have advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities in wildland fire management so there is little innovation or use of modern wildland firefighting systems, organization, or technology outside of large cities at the local level. A few other states like Wyoming and Montana have similar systems. Texas is even more, uh, unique, with the County Judge being responsible for fire suppression in some areas.
New this year for the state of Colorado will be two multi-mission fixed wing aircraft that will provide intelligence on new fires within 60 minutes of the first report, four helicopters that can transport helitack crews and drop water, and two additional Single Engine Air Tankers (for a total of four SEATs). They expect to have two large air tankers in 2015.
This year for the first time Colorado “proposes”, to field two Wildland Fire Modules (WFMs), each staffed with ten individuals. Their purpose will be to conduct operations involving planned and unplanned wildland fire events. The WFMs will have expertise in the initial attack, ignition, holding, suppression, prescribed fire preparation and implementation support, hazard fuels reduction, aviation operations and fire effects monitoring. More information about the state’s aviation plans is at Fire Aviation.
Recently passed legislation in Colorado will create a “center of excellence for advanced technology aerial firefighting”, which will:
- Serve as a laboratory to evaluate the “three fundamental contributing factors to successful aerial firefighting: effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability”.
- Conduct research to evaluate new technology in a variety of settings, such as initial attack, night operations, and operations in wildland-urban interface areas.
- Produce data and documentation on science and technology relevant to aerial firefighting.
Other resources that will continue to be available in Colorado include three 20-member State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT) crews, one each in Canon City, Buena Vista, and Rifle.
The state can also deploy 12 engines — 3 staffed by state employees, 5 staffed jointly by state and local agencies, and four call when needed engines operated by local agencies.