Firefighting technology helps limit wildfire size, threat

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DENVER -- Teams responsible for fighting wildfires in Colorado are more effective today thanks to advances in technology.

The State of Colorado has come a long way since the devastating Hayman Fire of 2002, according to emergency management personnel.

The deadly wildfire -- about 100 miles southwest of Denver -- grew to become the state’s largest. Flames covered nearly 138,000 acres.

Sixteen years later, firefighting breakthroughs are helping to ensure a fire that size stays in the Colorado history books.

“Every time we have a fire … we go back and do after-action reviews,” said Micki Trost with Colorado Emergency Management. “[We work to learn] how can we get resources there quicker.”

With fast-moving wildfires, time is everything. Specialized aircraft in Colorado helps put time on the side of firefighters.

Two state-owned intelligence aircraft are equipped with technology that helps spot fires more quickly while monitoring size and movement.

“They can deploy and fly those fires and provide real-time video,” Trost said.

Colorado also contracts two helicopters and two single-engine air tankers. Local and federal governments also contract firefighting aircraft.

“A large percentage are privately owned aircrafts that we’re using,” said Todd Pechota, 416 Fire incident commander.

In addition to the latest technology, firefighting professionals get better with each fire they work. That experience helps improve strategy and coordination, according to Colorado Emergency Management.

“We’ve been able to streamline some of those processes, unfortunately, because we’ve been using them a lot,” Trost said.

Experts stress improved technology should not give people a false sense of security. Wildfires remain a constant threat.

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