It’s been over a year since the East Peak fire in Huerfano County challenged the largely rural area’s resources. It came at a time when other fires were burning throughout the state, including the devastating Black Forest fire. Huerfano County’s volunteer fire protection district was the first responding agency to the southern Colorado blaze. KRCC’s Kate Perdoni reports on the challenges of the volunteer agency in the wake of the East Peak fire.
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.
Colorado’s legislature this year created the state’s own air fleet for fighting wildfires. The endeavor includes four helicopters, two single engine air tankers, and two PC-12 single engine planes equipped with new thermal imaging technology. The move has put Colorado at the forefront of utilizing advanced technology to battle the destructive blazes. Reporter Ryan Maye Handy wrote a series of articles for the Colorado Springs Gazette about this new technology. She spoke with KRCC's Andrea Chalfin about it.
The Bureau of Land Management is finalizing an updated fire management plan for the Front Range. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
The Royal Gorge office has divided the Front Range into Northeast and Royal Gorge planning areas, with the latter including Las Animas, Pueblo, and Fremont Counties. Changes to the fire management plan include more thinning, seeding and controlled burns. Ed Skerjanec is the Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist for the Bureau. He says the new plan looks to be more flexible and widespread:
The majority of crews battling the Eightmile fire are being released today. KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
Fire officials say due to cooperative weather, the lightning-caused blaze is now 65% contained, with the remaining perimeter located in inaccessible terrain. One fire crew, two engines, and a helicopter will remain with the fire, which spans over 500 acres. There’s been one heat related injury. Phantom Canyon Road between mile markers 4 and 12 remains closed.
UPDATE: According to a Tuesday morning press release, the pre-evacuation notice for those 16 residences in the Red Rocks subdivision was lifted around 8 PM last night, though Phantom Canyon Road remains closed. Containment remains at 40%.
UPDATE: As of around 8 PM Monday evening, the fire is about 40% contained. Pre-evacuation notice remains in effect for 16 residences in the Red Rocks subdivision; Phantom Canyon Road remains closed.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office released a report looking at the response to the Black Forest Fire Tuesday, nearly one year to the day after the devastating fire began.
The After Action Report [.pdf] details what went right during last year’s fire, and where there’s room for improvement. Maketa said they applied lessons learned from the previous year’s Waldo Canyon event, including providing a quicker flow of information to those displaced.
Forest Service land closed due to the Waldo Canyon Fire will remain restricted for some time. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
The US Forest Service has extended closure orders, saying the canyon requires more maintenance and time to re-grow. The area to remain closed includes the Waldo Canyon Trail along Highway 24. Work there is expected to continue through the summer. There is a maximum 5,000 dollar fine in place for trespassing in the closed areas.
UPDATE (Monday, 06/02 8:00 PM): All evacuation orders have been lifted; the fire is 100% contained. Mop up will continue and the area will be monitored over the next several days.
UPDATE (Monday, 06/02 11:45 AM): Huerfano County Emergency Dispatch says residents north of Twin Ridge Dr. on Four Mile Canyon Road to CR 312 may return. Residents south of Twin Ridge Dr. on Four Mile Canyon Rd. are still under an evacuation notice. The fire is 80% contained, with a burn area of 15 acres.
One of the key wildfire prevention measures of this year’s legislative session is in jeopardy of failing. The proposal has cleared the house, but as Bente Birkeland reports it faces new opposition in the senate.
Colorado’s $23 million budget is nearing the end of its legislative journey after floor debate in the senate Thursday. As Bente Birkeland reports, the senate made one noteworthy change to the house’s version.
Manitou Springs officials are inviting residents to a community forum Saturday to talk about disaster preparation. KRCC’s Rachel Gonchar has more.
Mayor Marc Snyder, Police Chief Joe Ribeiro and City Administrator Jack Benson will deliver progress updates on fire and flood mitigation projects.
Manitou Springs Emergency Fund (MERF) spokesman David Hunting says the city is about to start a bidding process for Williams Canyon and Canon Avenue work, and has made some progress on clean-up progress.
Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 10:56 am
Lawmakers on Colorado’s powerful joint budget committee are skeptical about finding money for an aerial firefighting fleet for the upcoming wildfire season. A report from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control recommends spending $33 million on spotter planes, small air tankers, helicopters, and leasing large air tankers for wildfire season.
Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 6:50 pm
The annual legislative session is typically marked with plenty of partisanship – but this year lawmakers in both parties are working together on flood relief bills. As dozens of natural disaster bills are making their way in the statehouse, some of the more significant policies are stalled.
Helping prevent and fight wildfires is one of the top priorities for Colorado lawmakers in both parties this session. But so far, substantial policy changes recommended by the Governor’s wildfire task force are being rejected. As Bente Birkeland reports, the current package of legislative proposals is not nearly as aggressive as some would like.
Lawmakers and Governor Hickenlooper are touting a package of bills they say will help prevent and fight wildfires. Most of the measures stem from an interim committee that met in the off session. Bente Birkeland has more at the state capitol.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is disputing statements made by Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey that this summer’s wildfire that destroyed more than 500 homes and killed two people was caused by humans and "likely intentional."
A new state committee tasked with studying wildfire issues has wrapped up its work. The bi-partisan group of lawmakers is recommending a tax credit to encourage people to mitigate fire risks and a proposal to give individual counties more authority to cut down hazardous trees. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
Despite the numbers of people who stepped in to volunteer during this summers East Peak Fire, Huerfano County is looking to be better prepared when it comes to organizing volunteers. As KRCC’s Kate Dunn reports, the county wants to set up a pre-established a team that would be ready in the event of any disaster.
The call went out in early September for 20 to 25 people to help fill the Community Emergency Response Team, but Huerfano County’s emergency Manager, Diego Bobian says recruitment has been slow.