Report: some firefighters in Colorado do not have adequate personal protective equipment

Recent legislation could help provide the gear

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Cherry Canyon Fire Colorado
Cherry Canyon Fire, 58 miles east-northeast of Trinidad, Colorado, May 24, 2020. Photo: Colorado Fire Prevention & Control.

A television station in Denver, 9News, reports that some firefighters in the state, especially volunteers, do not have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce their risks when fighting fires.

A bill recently passed by the legislature that appropriates $5 million to help provide the gear is waiting on the Governor’s desk for a signature.

A 9News video on YouTube has more details.

The additional funding will most likely address PPE for all types of fires, including self contained breathing apparatus for hazardous material incidents and structure and vehicle fires. As Wildfire Today reported December 22, 2021, a recent survey conducted by the NFPA asked 26,000 fire departments of all sizes about their readiness and capability for suppressing wildland fires. Here are three of the questions.

NFPA Needs Assessment wildland fire
Excerpt from the Wildland Fire section of the NFPA Needs Assessment.

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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.

8 thoughts on “Report: some firefighters in Colorado do not have adequate personal protective equipment”

  1. Colorado, to a great extent, is in the wildland firefighting stone age. The County Sheriffs still have primary jurisdiction on all non-fed lands (an absurd and dangerous business model in 2022). The volunteer depts are in severe decay from ancient funding mechanisms and can no longer recruit and maintain volunteers.

    Even USFS Region 2 is notoriously mismanaged and far behind the curve of every other region. R2 is horrendously underfunded and exceedingly top heavy in it’s management. Any time they do get appropriated funds they create new upper management positions, feather their own nests and then the Forests and Districts are left with stems and seeds. It’s really quite sad and shocking how retrogressive the R2 RO is with it’s thinking and fiduciary responsibilities.

    Many of us have been speaking about the myriad ways in which our RO will squander and mismanage the impending infrastructure dollars headed their way. There is very little trust that these funds will benefit our worn out, poverty-line firefighters OR the landscapes in which they were directed to improve.

    1. I totally agree, 20 to 25 yrs behind todays fire fighting situations. Just look at the 2020 Williams Fork and the East Troublesome fires. Day four of the East Troublesome fire, over 10,000 acres had less than 400 firefighters.

      1. I can’t speak to being behind in today’s fire fighting situations, but the Williams Fork fire was in July so competition for resources came into play. As for East Troublesome, many people were laid off-there was still competition for the resources who were left- and no on expected that fire to blow up 100, 000 acres over night.

  2. It appears the “Answers” field for question three in the table has fallen victim to Excel auto-formatting, converting the number ranges “2-5” and “6-20” into “5-Feb” and “20-Jun,” respectively.

  3. Some digging into whether or not, and if so, how the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights or TABOR amendment to Colorado’s state constitution affects this and similar issues that affect state funded first responders in Colorado.

  4. I would respectfully suggest that the issue with small departments being underfunded and severely lacking in basic equipment is not at all unique to Colorado. In the state within which I work, while it’s improving greatly for many departments, I bet less than half of the smaller VFDs have appropriate wildland PPE, many have structural PPE that is in fair condition but 20+ years old (or not enough to go around), and I’ve met a number of departments whose annual budget is less than $10k/year, with minimal tax base to support much more. I routinely see VFDs fighting wildfires in bunker gear, no gear, bunker pants and a t-shirt, or any number of non-approved PPE ensembles. With some it may be a lack of understanding or leadership, but for many it’s because that’s what they can afford. I hope this move to provide improved gear spreads beyond Colo.

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