Monday, July 24, 2017

Aircraft used to fight Spring Glade Fire could cost $100K

Two days after the Spring Glade Fire scorched more than 300 acres west of Loveland, investigators said hot metal on a malfunctioning mower sparked the blaze. 

Neighbors told the Coloradoan over the weekend that a contractor was mowing a field on private property when a fire sparked and quickly grew out of control amid hot, dry and windy conditions.

Investigators on Monday confirmed that was likely the fire's origin.

It took three aircraft, some 41,000 gallons of water and dozens of emergency personnel to get the blaze under control Saturday and Sunday.

Loveland Fire Rescue Authority, Poudre Fire Authority and the Larimer County Sheriff's Office all responded to the fire, which was fully contained as of Monday evening. 

"Typically, we send resources to help out the fire department in the initial stages ... especially if we know it has the potential to go big," Larimer County Sheriff's Office Emergency Operations Director Justin Whitesell said.

Whitesell also said the sheriff's office has an agreement to assist local fire agencies with fires west of Larimer County Road 29, which is east of Carter Lake, because the large open spaces have a greater potential for wildfires. The department has a dedicated team of emergency responders who can assist on fires, search and rescue and water rescue effort in addition to small fire trucks specially designed to wind up narrow mountain roads.

This agreement also allows the sheriff's office to help bear some of the financial burden incurred in these situations. 

The three aircraft — two planes and one helicopter — used to help contain the quickly moving Spring Glade Fire could end up costing about $100,000, Whitesell said. That figure pays for about 30 drops of flame retardant by the planes and about 5 hours of helicopter time.

"We can help with resources and can fill those gaps where fire departments might not have enough overhead resources," Whitesell said. 

On Saturday, dozens of law enforcement officers were out in the field digging lines, mopping up hot spots in the burn area and going door-to-door to notify residents of evacuations.

"It's certainly a community effort from emergency services," Loveland Fire Rescue Authority spokesman Scott Pringle said. "There's a really long list of different agencies that were involved in this from the scene, even behind the scenes. It was a team effort that involved, all told, probably hundreds of different people from dozens of agencies." 

That community response can be especially helpful during stretches with a flurry of simultaneous fires.

In addition to the Spring Glade Fire, lightning sparked a small blaze Sunday near Carter Lake that burned an estimated 1-5 acres. A 15-acre fire near Carpenter and Timberline roads also kept crews busy Sunday; the cause of that fire is still under investigation.

Larimer County is not in a drought, though the northwest portion of the county is considered abnormally dry, according to the U.S. drought monitor.  

Several weeks ago, Larimer County commissioners implemented summertime fire ban, barring open fire, smoking in the open, using fireworks, and welding in unincorporated Larimer County through at least Aug. 22. 

Violators could receive a $100 fine for a first offense, $250 fine for a second offense within 60 days and a $500 fine for each additional offense within 60 days of the first.

"The fire danger itself has been pretty high for most of the past few weeks, with dry conditions and dry temperatures," Pringle said, adding that he wants people to be diligent about anything that could cause a fire. "You add the wind, and that really increases the fire danger."

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