Natalie Sullivan, Assistant News Editor, @nhillsullivan
Since early June, the Colorado wildland fires have taken a destructive journey. Since the burning of 511 homes, with 28 considerably damaged, two people killed and more than 39,000 residents forced to evacuate, the Black Forest fire has demolished more homes than at any point in Colorado history. Yet as celebrations for the Fourth of July near, the predicament that Colorado and many other states have found themselves in is far from over.
Colorado Forest Service in the last few weeks has contracted firefighting crews from Montana to the Dakotas in a region-wide effort to defend homes, towns, and highways.
“When these emergencies occur, every state goes on standby to assist however needed. If something were to occur here in Utah while our crews are out, other states will be mobilized into action,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert following Colorado’s requests in accordance with the state-to-state Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
Governor Herbert approved the Utah National Guard to assist in Colorado Wildfires for 72 hours early Saturday morning on June 15 when Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper declared disaster emergencies for three fires. Two Helicopters were planned to deploy early the next day, but Colorado emergency officials reassessed and withdrew that request late the same afternoon.
It was determined by Colorado emergency officials that Utah assistance was not needed at the time. Since then no further requests from Utah have been requested no other details on the sudden decline for help have been released.
According to Jared Orum, a UVU Emergency Services student, in a wildland fire situation, procedure is cautious when deploying fire fighters.
“Wildland fire fighting is very dangerous. If it’s not causing damage to anything—towns, homes, historical or religious sites—don’t risk someone’s health or life.”
Resources like fire engines, helicopters and smoke jumpers are also added strategically in order to be used in more dangerous situations.
“Wildland fire fighters use the term ‘keep one foot in the black.’ Sometimes they are so close to the fire that to keep themselves from being over taken they keep one foot on ground that has already been burned so they can step into less burnable fuels if need be,” explained Orum.
As of June 23, Colorado has totaled 16 wildfires and burned 109 square miles, according to 7News in Denver.
As for Utah citizens, Governor Herbert urges caution.
“Given the dry, hot and windy conditions statewide, we must be vigilant in practicing fire safety and good common sense. That means using extra caution while camping, target shooting, and recreating outdoors. It also means ensuring structures are free of debris, hot vehicles are away from brush and dry grass, and fireworks are used in safe zones in accordance with local restrictions.”