Snow helped slow forest fires, not stop them

Metro North wildlands fire team back home after multiple deployments

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/3/20

North Metro Lieutenant Mike Anderson said the impact the snow that closed out October had on the fires plaguing Colorado was quick and obvious. “Across the board, it helps,” he said. Anderson and …

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Snow helped slow forest fires, not stop them

Metro North wildlands fire team back home after multiple deployments

Posted

North Metro Lieutenant Mike Anderson said the impact the snow that closed out October had on the fires plaguing Colorado was quick and obvious.

“Across the board, it helps,” he said.

Anderson and the wildland team from North Metro Fire and Rescue has spent several weeks this summer, fighting the fires that spread across the forests in the Western United States.

He and his team were sent to help fight the Pine Gulch Fire North of Grand Junction back in August. Next, they were sent to Northern California to help battle the Red Salmon Complex fire, Northeast of Eureka, California. They spent a month there, two rotations fighting that blaze before returning to Colorado.

Back in Colorado they were deployed to fight the Calwood Fire North of Boulder and finally the East Troublesome Fire West of Estes Park. That’s one of two fires threatening that community. The Cameron Peak fire is currently listed as partially under control after burning 208,000 acres.

Anderson said he and his crew were in Estes Park during the Front Range’s snowstorm, and it helped tamp down on the open flames.

But Anderson said the problems from an unprecedented wildland fire season are not past the state yet. It takes more than a single snowstorm to solve the problem.

“Unless you get the entire winter’s worth of snow, it’s not over,” Anderson said. “These early storms usually melt off, and then the grass is exposed again. And without people going in and working those hot spots the heat is still there, just like someone left an unattended campfire. The difference is, this is three, three-and-a-half miles of unattended campfires.”

And if the snow manages to slow the fire, it also manages to slow down the firefighters.

“You can’t drive engines and such because you don’t want to get them caught in ditches and the snow and the mud,” he said. “So it slows things down, including the fire and the response.”

Type Six and a team

Anderson works out of the North Metro Fire and Rescue Station in Broomfield. He’s part of the district’s wildland team, a group of about 20 firefighters trained to battle forest and grass fires. During summer fire seasons, the teams can be loaned out to respond to fires across the country.

Anderson those deployments usually include three or four firefighters and a Type 6 vehicle — a pick-up truck with firefighting gear and a 300-gallon tank of water.

“We type all the engines so everyone knows just what they're getting,” Anderson said. “A Type One is what you normally expect from a fire department, and great big pavement queen.”

Only one of the department’s three Type 6 trucks are available to be deployed around the region. The others stay close to home to keep a watch on local open space, he said.

Metro North’s wildlands team began back in 2000.

“A lot of metro departments have these deployable teams,” he said. “They’re all tracked out of Fort Collins  and they go through the list every year depending on what resources they need. Some years it’s all the time, others it’s not at all.”

This year, it’s been all the time, he said.

“Certainly, in Colorado, this is the busiest season I can remember,” he said.

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