Wildfire season could be worst since 2012-2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – This year’s wildfire season in Colorado could be the worst since the devastating fires in the summers of 2012 and 2013.
That was the warning from Gov. John Hickenloooper Friday, as he gathered with state leaders and wildland firefighters at a hanger at Centennial Airport in Englewood.
“Getting these little bits of moisture, which really isn’t increasing the snow pack significantly, is a cause for concern because people do get complacent,” Gov. Hickenlooper said, just hours after rain and snow fell on the mountains and metro area.
Nearly 70 percent of Colorado was in a drought as of April 10, as snow pack was significantly less than normal.
The wildfire forecast is for Colorado to have the most active core season – Memorial Day through Labor Day – since 2012 and 2013 when the Black Forest, High Park and Waldo Canyon fires destroyed more than 115,000 acres and 1,105 homes.
Since then, Colorado spent a total of about $6 million on two MMA, multi-mission aircraft, to spot small fires and stop them before they explode.
“A lot of the fires we find with the heat signature camera, you don’t see any smoke,” Bruce Dikken, the planes’ unit chief told FOX31. “You never would’ve known they were there.”
The planes have heat-seeking and color cameras. They often launch after thunderstorms to find smoldering fires started by lightning.
In the last few years, the planes have discovered more than 160 fires.
The state also has two drones, that are smaller versions of the planes and can be carried on fire engines or in ordinary vehicles.
They cost about $3,500 each and also have heat-seeking and color cameras to help point firefighters to hot spots and keep them safe.
“The biggest thing we can do for fires, besides preventing them and not having them start, is get them while they’re small. Because once a fire becomes big, it’s a challenge,” said Bob Gann, Deputy Director of the Colorado Fire Prevention & Control Center of Excellence Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting.