Colorado fire departments cutting back on out-of-state fire assistance

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DENVER (KDVR) — In a typical summer, Jonathan Ashford is accustomed to packing his bags. 
The West Metro Firefighter is part of a wildland team frequently sent out of state to assist with major fires. 

Last year, he spent five weeks helping with a fire in Alaska. 

“We usually get somewhere where they’ve had a long summer,” he says. “They’re tired, they’re stretched thin.”

But this year, many Front Range departments will be scaling back on resources sent out of state, choosing to keep them closer to home. 

“A lot of the agencies, we’re being very cautious on that,” says West Metro Fire Chief Don Lombardi. 

In a typical year, Lombardi makes about 15 firefighters available for out-of-state deployment.
In return, the department gets federal funding and the reassurance other states will help them out if they need it. 

“We want to go to Oregon and California, to let them know folks from Colorado are there from them in their time of need,” says Ashford. “With the expectation that if we needed them, they would come here if it was their turn.”

This year, Lombardi says he’s only planning on sending eight firefighters out-of-state.

“If there is a surge within our organization, of people that get COVID, I want to be able to make sure that we have enough people to respond,” he said. 

Other departments are being even more stringent. South Metro Fire Rescue says for now, there are no plans to send any firefighters out-of-state. 

Denver Fire is planning to send some, but says that could change if there’s a surge of COVID-19 cases in the metro area. 

“We don’t like any of this,” says Lombardi. “We want to be able to help out.”

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