U.S. firefighters converge in Colorado in anticipation of runaway wildfires
Ryan Summerlin June 26, 2013
Firefighters from all over the United States are making their way into Colorado.
The fire personnel aren’t headed directly to the front line, instead they will be part of a central mobilization center being set up to provide rapid response in the case of an emerging wildfire.
Organizers anticipate up to 400 firefighters will congregate at the facility in Clifton, just a few miles west of Grand Junction.
Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue deputy chief Jeff Berino said having the major hub of fire resources only about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Frisco could come in handy should a wildfire break out in our area.
“If we were to need them, it’s nice to know they are close by,” Berino said.
The deputy chief said local agencies are always tracking not only the weather patterns that influence fire danger, but also where fire resources are should they need them.
“We have people who are constantly working on logistics,” he said. “It’s just as important as squirting the hose.”
The local fire official said Summit County fire crews also have the option to bring in resources from the Front Range.
Emily Veale is an information officer with Oregon Incident Management Team 3 brought in to set up the center in Clifton.
“The neat thing about having a mobilization resource here is that it’s available on a state, local and fed level,” Veale said. “If there was a fire on a forest that needed initial attack support, or any fire support, the resources here could be mobilized to your area.”
The mobilization center literally turns into a town of firefighters, Veale said. Fire engines, hand crews and even air attack specialists use the center as a home base until deployed.
“It’s a benefit to communities locally and in other states to have a mobilize center where resources are up and ready to go,” Veale said.
The resource staging is set at Mesa Middle School. Organizers said they consider Grand Valley to be an ideal centralized location to stage quick response for areas needing help to quell wildfires, not only in Colorado, but also Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska. A mobilization center set in this location last year was also successful, Veale said.
Berino said it’s possible, though not likely, for local crews to join the mobilization center. At this point, he said, the fire agencies don’t want to get stretched too thin should a wildfire break out locally. In the past, he said, crews have been sent to mobilization centers in other areas throughout the country.
Any fire agency throughout the United States that is in need of extra support can order extra resources, officials said. The “mothership” of the cooperative effort is in Boise, Idaho, at the National Interagency Fire Center, Berino said.
“They start moving resources around based on where they anticipate needs and looking what the weather patterns are,” he said. “It’s a huge chess game.”
The Clifton mobilization center will remain in place as long as it is needed, according to organizers. Last year, the fire resource hub remained in place for several weeks, Veale said.