NEWS | July 11, 2016

Training pays off in Cold Springs fire response

By Staff Sgt. Manda Walters Colorado National Guard

“Smoke and flames,” said Erin Doyle, a wildland fire operations specialist with the City of Boulder, Colo., assisting in the coordination of helicopter-based fire suppression of the Cold Springs fire from the Boulder Municipal Airport, July 11, 2016.


“That was the only thing missing from our previous training,” he said.


Civil authorities and Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were prepared for the Cold Springs fire response near Nederland as a result of an annual interagency wildland fire training exercise held May 13-25 near Longmont in support of U.S. Forest Service Region 2 and the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.


Besides CONG, participants in the Cold Springs fire response included U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Boulder Office of Emergency Management, Boulder County Sheriff, fire departments from Colorado Springs, Longmont, and others, as well as student firefighters.  Several of these agencies also participated in the May exercise.


“The training, conducted near Longmont, included scenarios exactly like what we are working with today,” added Doyle. “Recognizing the faces seen at incident command and the voices heard on radio communications generates an instant comfort in our coordinated action.”


CONG pilots echoed a similar sentiment.


Maintenance Test Pilot Chief Warrant Officer Three (CW3) Theresa Bonine, a UH-60 Black hawk helicopter pilot with CONG’s 2nd of the 135th General Support Aviation Battalion, Delta Company, activated for the Cold Springs fire response, said aviation crews are pieced together based on need and availability.


“We are ready to work together and get the job done,” said Bonine, whose crew has Guard members from other units and companies, all based at the Army Aviation Support Facility, Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora.


By the close of aerial wildland firefighting operations July 11, CONG aircrews had already dropped 100 buckets carrying 156,500 gallons of water on the Cold Springs fire.


At the request of civil authorities, under executive order from CONG Commander-in-Chief Governor John Hickenlooper, the CONG activated nearly 75 Soldiers and Airmen for the Cold Springs fire response.  They included 10 Soldiers and four High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) from the 1/157th Infantry Battalion Forward Support Company, based in Windsor, for two traffic control points near the Cold Springs fire.


“The National Guard made a huge difference in the multi-agency, Cold Springs fire response, fire suppression capability, and performance,” said Doyle.


According to RMACC, Colorado has averaged about 3,000 wildfires per year for the previous 10 years.