Final Piece of Colorado's Fire Aviation Program Comes TogetherThe Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) announced the signing of a contract with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), located in Centennial, Colorado, to provide and operate two "Multi-Mission Aircraft" (MMA).
Based on the Pilatus PC-12, DFPC's aircraft features sensors and advanced technology that will allow aircrews to detect small fires before they grow into large incidents that severely affect Colorado’s lives, property, and resources. The MMA will provide advanced fire detection, location, and fire behavior monitoring capabilities.
Additionally, the aircraft will be equipped with a communications system that will allow the aircrew to send collected information to firefighting personnel on the ground using the Colorado Wildfire Information Management System (CO-WIMS). CO-WIMS is a web-based collaborative information sharing tool that will allow wildfire managers immediate access to fire location, behavior, and other critical pieces of information. CO-WIMS is accessible from tablets, computers, and smartphones and is built specifically to address the needs of the wildfire response personnel.
"These aircraft place Colorado in the forefront as a leader in the use of technology to manage wildfires and reduce their impact," said Paul Cooke, director of the state’s fire division. Gov. Hickenlooper signed the bill (Senate Bill 14-164) that created Colorado's firefighting aviation program on May 12, 2014, although funding was not available until the new fiscal year started on July 1st.
Additionally, Cooke said "these aircraft will fundamentally change the way wildfires are managed now and into the future." He added that they provide a capability that can greatly improve firefighter safety and efficiency in handling an incident.” The first of these aircraft will be in service in the state before the end of August.
In addition to the new multi-mission aircraft with their high-tech equipment, the Governor and Legislature also authorized the state's fire division to contract for more aerial firefighting resources, up to four firefighting helicopters and four single-engine air tankers (SEATs). DFPC has had two SEATs under contract since May, but the contract helicopters were not added until the second week of July. DFPC has three helicopters under contract, one based in Montrose, one in Alamosa, and one at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield, although all DFPC aircraft are moved around the state as fire danger and wildfire starts dictate.
According to Cooke, the aviation program is already paying huge dividends. Because the national priority has been fires in other western states, most (and at times, all) federal aircraft have been moved from Colorado. Thus, the only firefighting aircraft in Colorado at times have been the DFPC contracted resources.
In the month of July alone, DFPC contract aircraft have flown 41 missions, logging over 92 flight hours, and delivering 13,091 gallons of water and 33,369 gallons of retardant.
About the Division of Fire Prevention and ControlThe Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) is the state fire organization whose mission is to provide leadership and support to Colorado communities in reducing threats to lives, property and the environment from fire. DFPC's programs and services include fire prevention and code enforcement; wildfire preparedness, response, suppression, coordination, and management; firefighter training and certification; public information and education; and technical assistance to local governments.
For more information about the Division of Fire Prevention and Control, go to: www.dfs.state.co.us.
A media availability will be scheduled after the aircraft comes on line for photos and interviews. This is expected on August 31, 2014.