Colorado has a fire ecosystem, that’s what the Rifle UCR Interagency Fire & Aviation Unit tells us. After a dry winter producing low moisture, it’s even more apparent as we’ve already seen 29 wildfires in 2018.
“It’s all dependent on the size and activity on the fire ground, the fuel that it’s burning in, the current conditions; those are all the factors that we look at and then determining resource availability and then we make a decision on what kind of resources are going to be mobilized to that area”, says Rob Berger the Unit FMO for the UCR Fire & Aviation.
Last year, the state of Colorado was devastated by 163 wildfires with 97 of them being man-made. Aerial firefighters with the UCR must think and act quickly to do their jobs efficiently.
“If you have to wait on, for instance, a heavy tanker coming in from Albuquerque or Phoenix, Denver, or something like that, this fire may have got to 100 to 200 acres, and I think we can all understand it’s a whole lot easier to get around when it’s just 100 acres as opposed to 200 acres”, says Joel Hampton, an Aerial Firefighter for the UCR Fire & Aviation Unit.
“Based on a whole bunch of things that they work out, then we make a determination on what kind of assets we have. You see some of the large air-tankers, the single-engine air tankers, ‘helitack’ crews and engine crew. Some fires we determine that is going to do good on the landscape, we have a process to go through to find out what that’s going to look like”, says Berger.
Plus, there’s always backup if the Rifle UCR Fire & Aviation Unit needs it. They can call for backup from the West Zone in Grand Junction and the East Zone near Eagle & Summit County.
The Rifle UCR Fire & Aviation holds one of the three fire & aviation zones between the Utah border and the continental divide, and the extra fire-fighting aircraft they have in their possession goes with the old saying, “It’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”