colorado wildfires

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Wade Hanson

As wildfires continue to rage in the Northwest, Colorado has had a relatively mild season.  It’s unsure, though, if it will stay that way. 

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While Colorado has experienced much needed rain this spring, fire officials are still expecting an average fire season.

"The moisture has helped considerably, at least to forestall the onset of the fire season, which we know is coming," said Paul Cooke, the Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

The addition of two specialized planes that can spot a wildfire in its very earliest stages means that the state should be better prepared for the fire season. Specialized equipment like this though, means the cost of fighting wildfires in Colorado and the west continues to go up – and officials at every level are planning accordingly.

Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior and Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, came to Colorado Tuesday to urge a change in how the federal government pays to fight catastrophic wildfires.

"The solution is for these fires to be looked upon in the same way we look at tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, they're natural disasters and they should be funded as such," Vilsack said.

Interior's Jewell agrees the funding mechanism should change.

helicopter, firefighting, wildfire, Aerial Firefighting
The U.S. Army via Flickr

Colorado has announced the location for a 'first of its kind' aerial firefighting research facility.

The Rifle-Garfield County Airport will be home to the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting.  

"So virtually everything we do in wildland firefighting will be subject to be looked at by this center of excellence," Paul Cooke, the director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, says. 

He says the center will test and evaluate existing and new technologies used in aerial firefighting. 

Colorado’s legislature this year created the state’s own air fleet for fighting wildfires. The endeavor includes four helicopters, two single engine air tankers, and two PC-12 single engine planes equipped with new thermal imaging technology.  The move has put Colorado at the forefront of utilizing advanced technology to battle the destructive blazes.  Reporter Ryan Maye Handy wrote a series of articles for the Colorado Springs Gazette about this new technology.  She spoke with KRCC's Andrea Chalfin about it.

 

Rainy and cloudy conditions are helping firefighters battle two blazes in Moffat County. 

Crews responded to the Ladore Fire burning in Dinosaur National Monument Monday. The fire has burned 430 acres and an estimation for containment is not yet available.  

The Elk Springs Fire near Craig has burned 450 acres and is 90 percent contained. The fire started Saturday.

Susan Valente, with the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, said both fires are burning rough terrain.

The Alkali Fire northwest of Craig has burned more than 20,000 acres. 

Officials said the fire is now fully contained. 

The wildfire started Wednesday and the cause of it is still under investigation.

Lynn Barclay with Bureau of Land Management said the fire is burning sagebrush and grass. 

"This year because we did have a wet spring the grass that we have out there is thicker [and] tall and the sagebrush out in that area can get very, very tall, over five feet," Barclay said. "When you get some wind on that continuous fuel bed the fire just runs."

South Canyon Fire Event
Laura Palmisano

Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday in Glenwood Springs to honor 14 men and women who died on July 6, 1994 while fighting the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain.

Several wildfires are remembered around this time of the year.  On July 4th, 1994, the Wake Fire ripped through an area outside Paonia, destroying KVNF’s antenna and three homes.  KVNF’s own Felix Belmont was one of those homeowners.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock

As crews in California battle wildfires in San Diego County, it’s a reminder that the wildfire season has already started here in the West. Colorado’s 2014 fire outlook was released earlier this week. 

The outlook, presented by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention & Control, predicts the state’s wildfire potential is normal at least for the early part of the wildfire season. 

Randy Hampton/Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Recently on the Almanac, Peter Cullen noticed he hasn't seen many bears in the mountains of New Mexico this year.

Bears are foragers, and Cullen says the lack of piñon, oak and juniper trees caused them to head down to mountain towns looking for thrown-away leftovers.

That got us thinking about our bear populations here in western Colorado.

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Headlines:

  • BLM Approves Plans for Exploratory Coal Drilling East of Paonia
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Headlines:

  • Elk Creek Mine working on cleanup, still weeks away from opening
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  • Governor Hickenlooper issues new wildfire prevention orders
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Governor John Hickenlooper announced new initiatives on Wednesday to try and make Colorado better prepared for wildfires. State officials say they’re also planning for a drought this summer and a potentially bad fire season. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.


Two wildfires are currently burning north of Hotchkiss this afternoon. Both fires are believed to be caused by lightning as the area received numerous lightning strikes during the past 24 hours. Smoke may be visible in the area throughout the day and may settle into valleys overnight.

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