As firefighters work long hours to take care of the flames burning throughout Colorado- there’s another team in the background working year-round on behalf of the firefighters.
It’s a team dedicated to researching the best technology for putting out these wildfires: The Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting.
The center is a division of the Department of Public Safety and while it’s only been around for a few years- the organization has done a lot of research in finding effective tools to fight the fires, and keep firefighters safe.
Additionally, the center works closely with the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps- created in 2014, which manages a fleet of 4 aircraft right here in the state.
Some of the research the center has worked in over the years include a tracking system, which takes the location from firefighter’s cell phones to account for them on all lines of the fire, using drones to take a look at damage, and a tool that is becoming a game changer for firefighting- a an infrared technology to calculate the acreage of the fire.
‘To know what you have at hand very accurately is a pretty significant improvement to the operational process,’ said Ben Miller, Director of the Center for Excellence.
Additionally, the center examines current tools and if there’s something that would work better than what’s currently being done.
‘We’re looking at ‘Are there other things that we can do with tankers as far as what they drop? Is it just retardant, is it water, water enhancers- those types of things,’ said Miller.
While not all of these technologies are currently in operation for the wildfire season, the center says they take a very methodical approach in making sure the technology is tested and ready to go.
‘The things that are at stake when fires are burning aggressively, we don’t rely on brand new technology until it’s demonstrated that it’s effective and can be done in a realistic manner,’ said Miller.
The earliest some of the technologies would be fully implemented would be next year.
With wildfire mitigation and attack continues to be a core concern for state leaders, Miller says it’s a special opportunity to have a research facility dedicated solely to firefighting.
As Colorado becomes a leader in providing technology and research to make wildfire fighting more effective, Miller adds that there’s always more that can be done, but they’re doing as much as they can with the resources available to them.
Firefighting costs in Colorado aren’t cheap- every year totaling millions of dollars.
In 2017, the total costs exceeded $10,000,000.
With large fires such as the Spring Fire already surpassing $4.1 million- this year is on track to cost even more than last year.
The Center of Excellence will take a look at the data collected from this fire season after everything is said and done, during the actual season the center provides support where it can- but ultimately makes sure firefighters are able to do their job and take care of the devastation hitting various communities.