LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — As four major wildfires burn across Colorado, crews have to share resources based on unique needs, and calculated priorities.
“It’s not just that each fire is it’s own entity,” Larry Helmerick said with the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. “If we can share between resources, and we do that with air resources, an air tanker will fly one flight to one fire, and the next flight they’ll fly to another fire.”
Helmerick helps coordinate resources and recruit firefighting crews from every corner of the country to help fight wildfires in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Colorado has certainly been the focus in the last couple weeks.
Eighty aircraft from across the country are working to douse the flames, with 1,926 firefighters and crew on the ground, with an additional 200 firefighters coming in Tuesday, according to Helmerick.
“It’s got a lot of communication involved,” Helmerick said. “A lot of moving parts on the ground and in the air.”
Helmerick says each fire is prioritized based on values at risk, including infrastructure, evacuations, people living close to the fire lines, and other factors.
The decisions to prioritize each response is made every day, and could change based on conditions or need.
On Monday, Helmerick says the Grizzly Creek fire is priority number one of the four major fires burning. Between the closures of transportation through Interstate 70 and the proximity to Glenwood Springs and other communities, this fire has been the top priority for days.
The most recent of the four, the Williams Fork fire, is the second priority, because of the potential for it to march closer to Fraser and Winter Park, which could prompt additional evacuations.
Despite being the fourth largest wildfire in state history, the Pine Gulch fire is the third priority on the list, followed by the Cameron Peak fire.