Lessons from Waldo fire 


During the Waldo Canyon Fire, resources weren't always deployed as they should have been; visits from politicians added stress; and locals proved inexperienced in dealing with such a major event, according to the National Incident Management Organization.

An 18-page Waldo Canyon Fire Review from NIMO, a division of the U.S. Forest Service, is dated June 2013 but recently was widely disseminated. It isn't a multi-agency review but mentions how agencies interfaced during the June 2012 fire that it termed a "worst-case scenario." Two people died and 347 homes were destroyed.

The report states that resources weren't dispatched as soon as they could have been through the federal system, and that dispatchers failed to "recognize the seriousness of an emerging fire within the [wildland-urban interface]." So, while a Type 1 Team was requested within one hour of the fire's detection, it took 36 hours for it to actually take over.

Further, a "lack of agreements (specifically with United States Air Force Academy) and at times, a lack of understanding of the interagency wildland fire response system, created friction between agencies." The report also cites a hesitancy to deploy some local engines and contract resources, and notes that Colorado Springs didn't sign a delegation of authority, which resulted in "two different command structures [that] could have caused confusion."

As it was, "Confusion over evacuation authority and procedures demonstrated the need for a common understanding between agencies and the public on future evacuations."

As for the politicians, visits from President Obama, among others, created "extra work load" that should have triggered additional management resources.

For more, see tiny.cc/7tcx8w.

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