Colorado ARES Supports Emergency Communication in Wildland Fire Response
Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteers mustered to support emergency communications after wildland fires broke out in Colorado in June.
“For the second summer in a row the entire state of Colorado seems to be on fire,” said North Central Colorado Region ARES Emergency Coordinator Perry Lundquist, W6AUN. “Currently there are 16 wildfires burning within Colorado.”
Several Colorado ARES districts activated in the wake of the Royal Gorge and Black Forest fires June 11. After the Royal Gorge fire started near the famous Royal Gorge Bridge in Canon City, ARES members in Custer, Fremont, Huerfano and Pueblo counties responded, providing communication support for sheltering activities. The fire burned 3218 acres.
Later the same day, the Black Forest Fire erupted close to the Waldo Canyon area in Colorado Springs, where a similar wildfire caused widespread destruction last year. “The Black Forest Fire has now become the most destructive fire in Colorado history,” Lundquist said. It ultimately consumed 14,280 acres and 507 homes and caused two deaths.
During the fire’s peak, eight shelters were opened for both people as well as animals large and small, Lundquist reports. More than 35,000 residents had to evacuate, he said, placing a very heavy burden on the American Red Cross, which immediately requested ARES communication support between its eight various shelters and the Pikes Peak Red Cross headquarters. El Paso County, Douglas County and Elbert County ARES members responded by providing round-the-clock radio operators for several days.
Lundquist says several Jefferson County ARES members are still working on other fires within the state where their ARES members are assigned individually as National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) certified communication technicians and radio operators. “Colorado Section and Regional ARES leadership has worked closely to support the local ARES districts and to provide ARES mutual aid in the form of communications equipment and ARES-trained manpower resources wherever and whenever needed,” he said.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported June 28 that the West Fork Complex and East Peak fires “continue to be the main concerns for fire managers in Colorado.” Residents in the vicinity of those fires have been evacuated. — Thanks to Perry Lundquist, W6AUN; Colorado SM Jack Ciaccia, WMØG, and Rick Palm, K1CE