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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Some access for evacuees of Reservoir Road Fire


Noon: Beginning at 3 p.m. today the sheriff’s department will escort groups of 10 to 12 vehicles into the area. The residents will be give 30 minutes to gather belongings and tend to their property and then will be escorted out.  The escorted trips will continue until 7 p.m., conditions permitting.

Hillside Some access for evacuees of Reservoir Road Fire

The scene from Flatiron Reservoir gave no indication of the fire that lay behind the hills as the FEMA team took over the press briefings.  Correction:

The Thomas Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team organized under the National Wildfire Coordination Group(NWCG)that is now overseeing fire suppression efforts on the Reservoir Road Fire. The NWCG includes wildland fire organizations within the USDA Forest Service; four Department of the Interior agencies: Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Fish and Wildlife Service;and State forestry agencies through the National Association of State Foresters.

Public Information Officer Terry Krasko started with the latest details, 925 acres involved with containment still at 20 percent. There are 427 people assigned to the fire with three Type 2 teams and eleven Type 1 (Hot Shot) teams. Four helicopters are on duty today with a ramp full of air tankers available if needed.

Jim Thomas 60x75 Some access for evacuees of Reservoir Road FireJim Thomas, the new incident commander then introduced himself and explained that the management team and other resources were available to deploy from the Fourmile Canyon fire. Plans were underway to deploy another team, but Thomas said it made more sense to move them over to this fire since they were already nearby. He praised the work that Bill Nelson, the former incident commander, and the crews for what they had accomplished. He said that this fire had reached a level of complexity that called for the services of the Incident Management Team.

Thomas said that there was little movement yesterday and that the cloud cover had helped reduce the burning index. The weather, however, is still hot and dry and the wind was expected to increase to 10-15 mph this afternoon. He described the fire as primarily fuel driven but the wind will cause an increase in speed. The major problem for firefighters is a flare-up. If the fire does flare, firefighters need to withdraw and let the air tankers attempt to regain control. Presently the crews are working on hot spots with in the fire perimeter, containing the perimeter and protecting homes. The fire did spread north across Cottonwood Creek and into the north side of the gulch.

Thomas described the next 36 hours as pivotal in gaining the upper hand against this fire.

Hilo Some access for evacuees of Reservoir Road FireAs the briefing was being held, the helicopter tankers began taking water from the Flatiron Reservoir immediately behind the speakers.

Justin Smith from the Larimer County Sheriffs office had three points he wanted to make. He had been talking with Sheriff Alderden earlier and the sheriff wanted to try to allow the residents to go to their homes as soon as possible. He said that the department would look into getting a current aerial photo of the fire area for residents to look at. He then addressed the issue of the individuals who had started the fire. Investigators have interviewed them and they have been cooperative. The reports in the case will be turned in to the District Attorney today and he will make the determination about charges against the individuals. Smith said that information could possibly be available today.

Residents Some access for evacuees of Reservoir Road FireFollowing the press conference, Thomas and Smith met with residents. Most of the discussion centered on when they could go back to their homes. Smith said that the department would need to have staffing to verify entrants and to be able to monitor the area. He also said that some areas might still be too dangerous to allow those residents to return.

Thomas related a “story” at the end of the meeting with residents. He said that they had worked with Australia who had developed a “stand and defend” policy, and it seemed really good, preparing so that you could stand and defend your own home. They had that policy in effect a few years ago and 246 people were killed. “They couldn’t get out of there and were not expecting the fire behavior. If we ask you to get out, get out.” He said. Smith then thanked everyone who followed the order, that it allowed the fire fighting effort to be more aggressive. Smith also said that the commissioners might institute a burn ban today.

One of the reasons that necessitated an evacuation is that many, if not most, of the homes in this area have only one way in and one way out. According to Merlin Green, when he does d community welfare survey, that access limitation has a very negative impact on the rating. In many setting, one can flee ahead of an oncoming fire. In this area, the fire will block the only escape route and trap the victims. Firefighters are also very wary of entering an area where they could be trapped. Thomas said that safety is a top priority in fighting the fire.

Major Smith said he and Green would go immediately into the fire area to make a determination about access and would return as soon as possible to let the waiting residents know.

Residents will be allowed short trips in this afternoon.

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