Fire

Each summer, thousands of firefighters devote long hours to putting out wildfires. At the end of each day, they retreat to camp a safe distance away where they can relax and recharge to be ready for their next shift. And also get fed. For the Mountain West News Bureau’s Faces Behind the Fire series, we talk to the man in charge of the kitchen.

Rowdy Muir starting fighting fires on the front lines when he was 27.

Every summer, it takes a village to fight wildfires. For this upcoming season, we spoke with all kinds of people that lend a hand, from those on the frontlines, to others working a bit further back from the flames. For the Faces Behind the Fire series, Maggie Mullen talked to an archeologist with the U.S. Forest Service who helps decide what needs be preserved and what can be left to burn.


Wildfire season is ramping up across our region. There are all sorts of people involved in waiting, watching and fighting them -- people you might not expect. We’re profiling some of them in a series, Faces Behind The Fires.


El Paso County PIO, Twitter

 

Conditions across southern Colorado are dry, and they’re expected to stay that way as we move into the summer months. That has officials preparing for what could be a difficult fire season.

Colorado Springs Airport Instagram/cosairport

The Colorado Springs Airport is open again today after a three-alarm fire Monday night prompted its closure and the cancellation of all commercial flights Tuesday. 

El Paso County PIO, Twitter

--- Update 4/19/18, 9:45 p.m. ---

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is reporting that the #117Fire has been completely contained.

--- Update 4/19/18, 7:30 a.m. ---

The #117Fire is now estimated at 60% containment, with little to no growth. It remains nearly 41,000 acres. The state's Type II team has officially taken over command of fighting the fire as of 6 a.m. There's a new fire information phone number: 719-428-5223 (from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.).

National Weather Service-Pueblo

Evacuations are in place as firefighters throughout southern Colorado battle multiple fires. 

Colorado Springs FIre Department @CSFDPIO

Residents who have been evacuated due to a fire along the El Paso-Pueblo County line can start returning to their homes, with the exception of three locations. The fire, which started Friday on Fort Carson near a training exercise, has burned 3300 acres and is 80% contained as of late afternoon Saturday. 

Colorado Springs FIre Department @CSFDPIO

7:00 p.m.: In a press briefing Friday evening, officials confirmed that several structures have been lost in the fire, but said no loss of life or injury has been reported. El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said most of the threatened structures are believed to be safe at this point, and that fire crews are focused now on extinguishing the blaze. He said he hopes the fire will be out before midnight.

A spokesperson for Fort Carson explained that the blaze -- which was sparked on Fort Carson and joined up with another flare up that started in the area yesterday -- began in the vicinity of a training exercise that was being conducted on post. He added that the training was necessary and could not have been delayed, despite red flag fire conditions in the region Friday.

National Weather Service

Days of warm temperatures, high winds, and low humidity across the southern Colorado region have seen Red Flag Warnings and a number of fires crop up. A Red Flag Warning means conditions are ideal for the start and spread of wildfires, including dry fuels, low relative humidities, and gusty winds.

El Paso County Sheriff's Office

UPDATE: As of around 7PM Monday evening, all evacuations have been lifted.  Residents must have ID to reenter.

Brett Whaley / FLICKR Creative COmmons

Fire managers and others from around the state gathered at UCCS to touch base this week.

Prescribed or controlled burning is intentionally causing a fire over a planned area for environmental benefits.

U.S. Forest Service

Residents of the Eagle Springs Ranch Subdivision and the Greenwood Subdivision from County Road 390 to mile marker 24 in Custer County are now allowed back into their homes. The Custer County Office of Emergency Management says residents must pick up re-entry passes sometime between 3:00-8:00 today  at the Wetmore Volunteer Fire Station located at 200 CR 290 in Wetmore. Proof of residents and identification is required.  Re-entry will begin at 5 PM.

Highway 96 will open to thru traffic from McKenzie Junction to Wetmore at 3 PM.

Fremont County Sheriff's Office

The Junkins Fire burning predominately in Custer County has prompted evacuations in Custer and Pueblo Counties.  A Type I Incident Command Team assumed command of the Junkins Fire Wednesday morning.  260 personnel are fighting the blaze, including hand crews, air tankers and helicopters.  As of Wednesday afternoon, the fire has burned nearly 17,000 acres, and is now at 3% containment.  The incident commander expects to see more containment tomorrow.  The fire started when a power line was knocked down due to strong winds, landing on a barb wire fence.

clipart.com

The Colorado Springs Fire Department is looking for new firefighters. 

The Fire Department plans to hold orientations for those interested in applying, where they'll discuss what the job entails and how to prepare for the interview process.

Monday Newscast, 1/25/16, 5:32 PM

Jan 25, 2016

Newscast for Monday, January 25, 2016, 5:32 PM:
 


Deputy Chief J. Petersma / Falcon Fire Department

Crews from several El Paso County area fire departments responded to a grass fire in the eastern part of the county Tuesday afternoon.  The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says its dispatch office sent out nearly 130 reverse 911 calls to nearby residents, and a voluntary evacuation was put in place for residents bound by Shear, Edison, Fossinger, and Yoder Roads.

A study of the 2012 Waldo Canyon wildfire recommends that crews fighting similar fires that spread into urban areas be trained in both structure protection and traditional wildland firefighting tactics. 

Alex Maranghides, fire protection engineer for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST says the investigation shows defensive measures specifically designed for the wildland urban interface, or WUI, can benefit firefighting efforts.

Friday Newscast, 10/16/15, 5:32 PM

Oct 16, 2015

Newscast for Friday, October 16, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 

Thursday Newscast, 10/15/15, 5:32 PM

Oct 15, 2015

Newscast for Thursday, October 15, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 

Agencies are planning a number of prescribed burns throughout the area, focusing on reducing fuel load and promoting forest health:
 

Wednesday Newscast, 9/16/15, 7:20 AM

Sep 16, 2015

Newscast for Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 7:20 AM:
 

Tuesday Newscast, 9/15/15, 5:32 PM

Sep 15, 2015

Newscast for Tuesday, September 15, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 

Monday Newscast, 9/14/15, 5:32 PM

Sep 14, 2015

Newscast for Monday, September 14, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 

  • A bi-partisan committee of Colorado lawmakers is wrapping up statewide hearings this week on Colorado’s water plan. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
     
  • The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of southern Colorado tomorrow, starting at 11 and ending at 8..  Low humidity and gusty winds are in store for the region.  The National Weather Service has also issued a fire weather watch for Wednesday.

Flickr / Creative Commons

The new aerial fire fighting research center in Rifle opened this week with a ribbon cutting.  Melissa Lineberger is the director of the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, and recently spoke with KDNK’s Amy Hadden Marsh about her experience with wildfires and her vision for the program.
 

Private landowners can now sign up for classes focusing on how to conduct safer pile burns. KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

Those who complete the course become certified burners and will also be protected on a limited basis from civil liability.

"It’s not just a simple go out and light the match. There’s a lot of steps that go into prescribed fire,” said Mike Frary, Unit Chief for Prescribed Fire for the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

CSFD Twitter (@CSFDPIO)

UPDATE: 01/29/15, 9:41 AM: CSFD released official details of the fire last night.  It burned a total of 5.92 acres, with five agencies responding: Colorado Springs Fire Department, Colorado Springs Utilities Wildland Team, El Paso County Wildland Team, Pike National Forest Fire, Broadmoor Fire Rescue.

UPDATE: 01/27/15, 5:29 PM:  CSFD spokesman Captain Steve Oswald says a juvenile's misuse of a lighter caused the fire.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

In many parts of Colorado when you dial 9-1-1 to report a fire, the firefighters who arrive to extinguish it are volunteers. These firefighters have other jobs, and serve half of the state’s population. But Colorado has an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers, leaving many communities at risk.

Colorado's Volunteer Firefighting Corps Face Staffing Issues

Sep 2, 2014
Joe Mahoney / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

Volunteer firefighters protect about half of Colorado’s residents, with solely volunteer departments being responsible for about 70 percent of the state’s land surface.

And they are significantly understaffed.

The Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association estimates that Colorado is short 3,500 volunteers in meeting National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. That would require an increase of more than 40 percent to the present force. 

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