Leaders look to $24 million Firehawk helicopter, further forest thinning to combat worsening fires
Federal forest firefighter Ben McLane got a visceral feel for the West’s intensifying wildfire predicament when his 20-man Hotshot crew rolled into Colorado last summer and faced the lightning-sparked Pine Gulch blaze — flames racing across bone-dry land and, each day, leaping beyond containment boundaries the firefighters hacked into soil.
“You’re not going to stop megafires,” McLane said this week as increasingly arid states braced for more battles. “They’re getting bigger, faster, putting us on our heels.”
Mike Morgan, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, also got a fresh glimpse of the perils. It was Super Bowl Sunday — downtime, he thought — in the dead of this pandemic winter. Temperatures had dipped below freezing, snow on the way.
But two wildfires broke out inside metro Denver, forcing the evacuation of thousands of homes. Flames were devouring dry grass near a golf course normally buried under snow or at least matted so that fire couldn’t spread. And suddenly Morgan was scrambling, knowing air assets weren’t available, deploying a dozen wildland firefighters to aid urban crews.
Read more on this story at the Burlington Record.