Colorado is expecting another explosive wildfire year, but the state may be more prepared this time
The state’s Wildfire Preparedness Plan, released Thursday, notes that even as 2021 is shaping up to repeat the chaos of last year, agencies are collaborating more and have better support.
Colorado wildfire experts are warning that conditions are setting up for wildfires as bad as last year, when the three largest forest fires on record burned for months. But this time, they think the state may be better prepared.
Millions of dollars, multiple aircraft and coordinated partnerships between local, state and federal agencies are all teed up to allow firefighters to make aggressive initial attacks on potentially devastating wildfires before they rage out of control.
“I’ve never seen more of a state of readiness than we have today,” Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, said Thursday at a news conference where the state released its 2021 Wildfire Preparedness Plan.
This year, state fire managers are focused on making sure resources are in the right places at the right time to quickly respond to fires in high-risk areas. They know a fast response works in preventing major disasters based on how the Elephant Butte and Chatridge 2 fires, close to homes in Jefferson and Douglas counties, were kept in check last summer.
“We’re trying to provide more resources to the local fire chiefs and the local sheriffs to keep fires from getting large,” Mike Morgan, director of the state Division of Fire Prevention and Control, said at the news conference. “We spend a little bit more money today, but we don’t have as many long-duration events as a result of that.”
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