10 years ago this month pilot Gert Marais was killed while fighting a fire at Fort Carson

Fort Carson reports 20 training related vegetation fires in last 12 months

(This article was first published on Wildfire Today)

A spokesperson for Fort Carson, a U.S. Army base south of Colorado Springs, admits that 20 fires in the last 12 months have been a result of training activities on the base, according to KOAA. Below is an excerpt from their report:

On March 16, a fire caused by live ammunition training on a Fort Carson artillery range burned nearly 3,000 acres off Mountain Post property, destroying two homes, numerous outbuildings, and dozens of vehicles.  Sunday, a wildfire caused by shooting on the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex public shooting range burned more than 2,000 acres and forced the total closure of a roughly 10-mile stretch of I-25 for more than an hour.

Gert MaraisLocal residents and elected officials are wondering if there is anything the base can do to minimize the number of fires started by training, such as reducing dangerous activities during periods of elevated fire danger.

Ten years ago this month the pilot of a single engine air tanker was killed while helping firefighters on the ground contain a fire that started on Training Area 25 at Fort Carson. Wildfire Today wrote about the report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, which indicates there were very strong winds that day when Gert Marais died:

At the time of the crash, a U.S. Forest Service person on the ground who was directing the SEAT estimated that at the time of the crash the wind was out of the southwest at 30-40 knots. Winds at the Fort Carson airfield, 5 miles from the crash site, were between 20 and 40 knots from 1300 to the time of the accident at 1815.

Strong winds like occured on April 15, 2008 often indicate high wildfire danger if the relative humidity is low and the vegetation is dry.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
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4 thoughts on “10 years ago this month pilot Gert Marais was killed while fighting a fire at Fort Carson”

  1. Gerry was a friend. He had refused a drop a few minutes before, due to winds, and responded to a request to the fire where he died. He was flying a contract 602 for the State of Colorado; it was unique in that the operator kept spray booms on the aircraft. I was at an air attack conference that fall in which Gerry’s fatality was used as a case study, and the blame was thrown on the spray booms. Not one of those in attendance, other than myself, had any experience with SEATs or Air Tractors, but were quick to condemn based on what they thought they knew.

    A year or so later I inadvertently dialed Gerry’s number. It went to his voice mail. Hearing him again made the hair on my neck stand up, and it made me sad. He was a family man, an ordinary guy, easy to talk to. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years.

    1. Hard to believe he has been gone that long, I worked with him at the company he was flying for. I miss him every day.

  2. Fort Carson and neighboring wildland agencies could develop an annual RX Burn plan, and the military could modify or cease their training when fire danger is high. The military training mission and associated wildfires are not worth the loss of homes or someone’s life…where is the oversight and why has the situation not been addressed?

  3. Gert was an awesome individual. I worked with him in the early days of the SEAT program. He was new to aerial fire fighting he had some difficulty in using the terminology and procedures. However, he was willing to learn. We spend a lot of time mostly after work while having dinner reviewing what happened during the operational period. He picked things up quickly and by the time I retired from the aviation program, he was one of the best around. It was really sad to hear of the accident and his untimely passing. Cheers to you Gert!!!!

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