DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Douglas County has a new tool in its firefighting arsenal.
The Board of Douglas County Commissioners committed more than $1.5 million to the county's 2023 wildland fire aerial firefighting contracts at its Tuesday meeting, ensuring the county has aerial support anytime a fire breaks out.
This came in as a request from the Douglas County Office of Emergency Management.
“We know the biggest natural hazard threat to Douglas County is a wildfire,” said Commissioner Abe Laydon, Board Chair and Chair of the Douglas County Wildfire Initiative. “We’re investing in these resources and others so we’re ready to respond hard, heavy and fast to a wildfire, keeping families and businesses safe.”
It marks the largest investment the county has made toward aerial support. It's also one of the largest made by a local government in Colorado, according to the county.
Douglas County will have 153 days — June 1 through Oct. 31, 2023, historically the months of highest fire frequency and severity in the county — of exclusive use of a Type 2 helicopter thanks to a contract with Trans Aero LTD for $1,128,750. The helicopter will be able to transport 300 gallons of water to a fire. The contract includes options to extend it annually for an additional four terms.
In addition to this contract, Douglas County also approved call-when-needed air support contracts, one each with 10 Tanker Air Carrier, LLC, Rampart Helicopter Services LLC, Trans Aero LTD, and Aero S.E.A.T. Inc.These will be available between April 12 and Dec. 31, 2023 for $100,000 each.
- Brush fire in Douglas County 'human caused and suspicious,' South Metro Fire Rescue says - April 2017
- Chatridge 2 Fire fully contained after charring 461 acres, threatening homes in NW Douglas County - June 2020
- Firework shows spark multiple spot fires in Douglas County - December 2021
- Firefighters fully contain fast-moving fire in Douglas County east of Chatfield State Park - December 2021
- Fast-moving wildfire exercise in Douglas County helping residents prepare in case of an emergency - October 2022
Douglas County Sheriff Darren Weekly said this will "greatly enhance our ability to respond quickly and effectively to wildfires, ultimately helping to keep our communities safe."
The county recommends that residents do their part by mitigating fire danger around their homes. This includes ensuring there is enough defensible space between flammable brush and a home. Douglas County offers a Wildfire Mitigation Cost-Share program, which is funded by part of the county's American Rescue Plan Act allocation. Residents can sign up for CodeRED notifications to receive any emergency notifications, including alerts about fires.
Douglas County adopted a five-year Fire Operating Plan in 2021, which outlined the responsibilities of the county, state and U.S. Forest Service when a wildfire breaks out in the county.
At the state level, Colorado will soon have its own Firehawk, a newly manufactured S-70M Black Hawk from Sikorsky that was outfitted for firefighting.
'It's a game-changer': Here's a first look at Colorado's soon-to-be Firehawk
In late March, the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control said United Rotorcraft experienced delays, which affected the Firehawk's expected delivery date. It was pushed back to early May.