CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (KDVR) — The Snow Creek Fire was 75% contained as of Wednesday evening, with West Metro Firefighters continuing mop-up duty. The fire is believed to have been started by lightning.

Firefighters credited aerial operations for playing a large role in helping knock down the fire. That includes a new helicopter in Douglas County, which recently became the first in the state to purchase an exclusive use contract with an aerial firefighting crew.

That contract, which cost the county $2 million, allows the county to fight fires with the helicopter for 153 days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they agreed to send it to Jefferson County as part of a mutual aid agreement.

“They called up and said, ‘Hey, listen, we’ve got this fire. May we use your resources?’ And we said yes, and automatically, we take off and go,” Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said.

Spurlock said previous contracts left them open to gaps when the helicopter might be needed elsewhere, and with fire becoming a growing threat along the Front Range, they decided to lock it up for the summer and fall months.

“This is a fire tool. This is a suppression tool,” Spurlock said. “Just like the fire departments have where they’re ready to go at any time they’re at their station, this helicopter is at the helipad in Douglas County.”

Aerial firefighting helps with rough wildland terrain

Darren Een was at the controls on Tuesday and Wednesday and said the tough terrain made it clear their resources would be helpful.

“We kind of fly circles around it, get a good look at it, see which way the fire is moving,” he said. “A lot of times we’re going to be the first ones to access the fire.”

Spurlock said that so far, they haven’t charged other counties for the help, knowing they may need resources sent their way at a later date.

“That’s what it’s about: If we can help someone now, later if we need some of their resources, it’s all about sharing,” he said.