Colorado sends multi-mission aircraft to assist oregon with large wildfires

One of Colorado’s two Pilatus PC-12s.

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) sent one of its two Multi-Mission Aircraft to the State of Oregon yesterday to assist with the current wildfire situation in that state.

The national structure for combatting wildland fires is a cooperative, interagency system involving local, state, and federal agencies.  “When Colorado needs help to fight wildfires in our state, we rely on other states to send resources,” said State Fire Director Paul Cooke. “We were fortunate that Colorado’s wildfire season has been fairly light thus far,” said Cooke, “so we can afford to help out others with their needs.”

The situation in Oregon now is much like what Colorado experienced in 2012; significant amounts of dry lightning contributing to ignitions and abundant very dry fuels coupled with high temperatures and erratic winds have resulted in extreme fire behavior and rapid spread.

“With the threat of dry lightning and even more fire starts feared, Colorado’s aircraft will be of tremendous benefit”, Cooke said.  The State of Colorado’s Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA) program is unique to the country.  The program is comprised of two Pilatus PC-12 airplanes outfitted with state-of-the-art infrared (IR) and color sensors operated by Division of Fire Prevention and Control personnel.  The primary mission of the aircraft is the early detection of wildfires and providing important information to ground forces during initial attack.  However, the aircraft can also provide persistent surveillance of large wildfires, providing real time information, including live video, to incident commanders to assist them in making tactical decisions and improving the safety and efficiency of firefighting efforts.

Cooke says that since their arrival late yesterday, Colorado’s aircraft has been providing updated intelligence on Oregon’s two largest wildfires.  The Stouts fire, burning in southwest Oregon quickly grew to over 15,000 acres since it started on Thursday, and is only 3 percent contained.   The Cable Crossing fire, also in southwest Oregon, has burned more than 1,100 acres since it started on Tuesday, and is currently 15 percent contained.

Cooke says that even though the assistance is reciprocal, Colorado will be reimbursed by the State of Oregon for the use of the resources on loan.

More information about Colorado’s Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.