Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control
690 Kipling Street # 2000 Lakewood, CO 80215 Phone: (303) 2394600
Fax: (303) 2395887
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2014
For more information contact: Micki Trost, Public Information Officer
Early Detection, Informed DecisionMaking, and Effective Initial Attack will Protect Lives and Property from Wildfire
DENVER — Friday, March 28, 2014 — The Division of Fire Prevention and Control today presented its report on fire aviation to Gov. John Hickenlooper that recommends ways to improve Colorado's response to wildfire.
"The Division and its stakeholder advisory group really focused in on what we can do to address the wildfire threat in Colorado," State Fire Director Paul Cooke said. “The recommendations include options to enhance the State's aerial firefighting capabilities without purchasing a fleet of air tankers".
The report is in response to law passed last year (Senate Bill 13-245) which created the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps within the Division, but provided no funding for aircraft. Instead the law directed the Division to submit a report to the Governor and the General Assembly concerning strategies to enhance the state's aerial firefighting capabilities, by April 1, 2014.
The Division focused on ways to Increase the likelihood that a fire is suppressed in the first hours of its existence.
"As simplistic as it sounds, our goal is to keep wildfires that threaten people and property small," Cooke said. "We do this by developing the capability to detect fires earlier and locate them faster, and providing the local Incident Commander with data needed to make informed decisions regarding suppression strategy."
The Division's recommendations include:
- Focus attention and efforts on initial attack—the most critical time to generate an informed and effective suppression response is the first few hours of a fire.
- Develop the means to ensure that existing suppression resources are being used to their maximum effectiveness while ensuring responder safety.
- Implement a state-wide information management system that provides shared, collaborative, real-time information amongst all participants in Colorado’s wildfire management system.
- Develop early detection and remote sensing capabilities by securing aircraft equipped with modern fire-detecting sensors that should be operated to actively identify and locate small fires in high-risk wildland and wildland urban interface areas.
- Contract for four multi-mission rotor-wing aircraft to facilitate the initial attack response in Colorado’s rugged and remote locations.
- Increase the number of Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) under the operational control of the state from two to four.
Cooke says, "The large capital investment cost of procuring, revitalizing, and modifying air tankers does not present a best-value approach to meet Colorado’s wildfire management goals."
The report also suggests that the large air tanker need could be addressed with a call-when-needed contract, meaning that the State is not paying for the aircraft unless they are needed on a fire in Colorado. Cooke advised the Governor that this approach makes good fiscal sense. If the fire season turns out worse than anticipated, we then pay to have the tankers in Colorado.
The report also suggests that the large air tanker need could be addressed with a call-when-needed contract, meaning that the State is not paying for the aircraft unless they are needed on a fire in Colorado.
- Wildfire Information Management System Procure a state-wide license and provide training $100,000
- Multi-Mission Fixed Wing Aircraft Purchase two Multi-Mission Fixed Wing Aircraft equipped with high tech fire detection and communications systems $10 million
- Operate two Multi-Mission Fixed Wing Aircraft equipped with high tech fire detection and communications systems $1.7 million
- Multi-Mission Rotor-Wing Aircraft Contract for four Type III or larger rotor wing aircraft $4.7 million
- Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) Contract for four exclusive use SEATs $3.1 million
- Large Fixed-Wing Air Tankers Contract for two exclusive use large air tankers $11.9 million*
- Other Direct and Indirect Expenses Additional insurance, airport fees, hanger leases, tanker base costs, personnel, supplies and equipment, etc. $2.1 million
* This cost would be avoided if the State entered into call-when-needed agreements. If the large air tankers were needed on a fire, their cost would be charged to the fire.
According to Cooke, the improvements and capabilities recommended by this report will not ensure that Colorado will be free of wildfires. "Even under the most highly effective wildland fire protection systems some fires will continue to escape control efforts," Cooke said. "Under extreme weather conditions, such as those ignited during high wind events, a small percentage of wildland fires will become large and damaging." He adds that "efforts must be taken to create homes and communities that can withstand such fires; develop policies and procedures to promote public and firefighter safety; and educate the public that wildland fire is a natural part of Colorado’s landscape."
The report suggests that recommended improvements and capabilities will enhance Colorado’s ability to support local firefighting forces in a more efficient and effective, manner. "The result, according to Cooke, "will be a decrease the losses suffered as a result of wildfire in Colorado as well as the overall cost of fire suppression and post-fire recovery."
The full report can be found at http://dfs.state.co.us.