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B228FC6EB035886387258442005AC79A Hearing Summary


Date Jul 25, 2019      
Location HCR 0112

Bureau of Land Management - Fire and Aviation Program - Committee Discussion Only

10:31:38 AM  

Brian Achziger, representing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fire and Aviation program, provided a PowerPoint presentation (Attachment D) and distributed an informational packet (Attachment E).  The BLM is housed within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI).  Thirty percent of of the workforce in DOI is fire related, while 35 percent of BLM funding is spent on fires.  The BLM is a three tier organization with a national office in Washington DC, state offices, and district and field offices.  The national office provides leadership, oversight, policy, and budgeting.  Twelve state fire offices, primarily in the west, coordinate policies and interagency relationships.

He explained that on the ground fire management happens at the district level.  There are three districts in Colorado and four fire units.  Each district office has a fire management officer and a fire chief.  The four fire units include the Front Range Unit in Canon City; the Northwest Unit in the Craig, Meeker, Kremmling area; the Interagency Fire Management Unit along the I-70 corridor from Utah to the Eisenhower Tunnel in the White Mountain Forest; and the Southwest Unit in Montrose.

10:39:37 AM  

There was discussion about coordination with local fire districts, specific command and control structure, and getting the appropriate equipment.  Mr. Achzinger indicated that there is a statewide master agreement and annual operating plan at the state level that addresses how coordination will occur between local fire districts and the federal government, as well as local operating agreement plans.  Meetings occur throughout the winter before fire season to prepare for coordinated efforts during fire season.  Fire centers also coordinate with each other when reporting a fire.  There is a pre-planned response for dispatch resources, including local governments.

Typically, the first person on scene is the commander in charge of the fire.  If a fire is multi-jurisdiction a unified command may be created, including two to three people.  These details should be worked out in the annual operating plan, pre fire season.

Interoperability between communication devices (phones) and channel communication is a challenge.  There is a statewide annual communication plan, however, there are issues with communications in most states.  Federal agencies are licensed to use band radios, which are different than local communication devices.  In Colorado, 800 or 600 megahertz radios are used by locals so they have both types of radios.  In using different technology, patching radio frequencies is often done.

10:46:42 AM  

There was a discussion about staffing, including moving seasonal staff to full time after the season.  Mr. Achziger indicated that there are 170 total staff members, some of which are seasonal.  When not fighting fires staff complete other work, such as mitigation.  Staff may also be sent to other states if needed.

10:48:59 AM  

Mr. Achzinger talked about division equipment.  He indicated that the prior season, as well as historical data, is used in determining resource distribution.  Planning is also done with the state aviation manager.  The plan for resources is often reviewed throughout the fire season.

In Colorado, the BLM may work with partners utilizing drones to identify fires.  There was also a discussion about using cameras on towers to triangulate the location of a fire.  The 2018 fire season was busy, including 2600 flight hours and dropping more than 2 million gallons of retardant.

10:55:33 AM  

He stated that the fuels program treated 44,000 areas, with a focus on the WUI and communities adjacent to the area. 

10:56:31 AM  

Mr. Achziger discussed community assistance programs.  In 2018, ninety-two communities were assisted, using $534,000, 890 acres and 1100 homes on non-federal lands were protected, and 307 education events were held.

10:57:44 AM  

Rural fire readiness was discussed, including the direct transfer of excess equipment, such as fire engines to local fire departments or counties.  Recently, three engines and one command vehicle were provided to the Moffat County Sheriff. 

10:59:31 AM  

Mr Achziger stated the seasonal outlook for fires is hard to predict.  However, it appears that there may be more lower elevation fires, due to the wet winter snows in the higher elevations.

11:03:03 AM  

There was a discussion about the final call on deployment of aerial resources.  Mr. Achziger indicated that first responders deploy those resources. He went on to explain that things get complicated in a big fire season, as there are only so many resources.  Resources may first be prioritized by local dispatch services and then by the BLM.  The BLM looks at threat to life first, including the public and firefighters.  Beyond the local level the decision could go to the national level for resources such as large air tankers.

11:06:59 AM  

Mr. Achziger responded to questions concerning the agency's location stating that BLM has always been housed in the DOI. 

The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details