After the Marshall Fire, Colorado firefighters worry about a similar disaster in their communities

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Population growth also comes with an increased risk of wildfires threatening power grids, water supplies and railways carrying resources between communities, they said.

“The classic system was built on four-minute drive times and firefighters playing checkers waiting to go to the next fire,” Simms told the group. “We really need to think about what we’re doing, modernize it and improve it for the risk that’s out there.”

Weld County Fire Department said they are concerned about fires starting and damaging oil and gas wells. Others mentioned the subsequent risk of flooding, such as what happened in Poudre Canyon last year after the Cameron Peak fire.

Miguel Otarola/CPR News
Left to right: Peter Koretz, battalion chief, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control; Jerry Howell, fire marshal of the Poudre Fire Authority; and Dan Lowell, captain of fuels and prescribed fires for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, discuss their top wildfire priorities inside the Poudre Fire Authority headquarters in Fort Collins, June 9, 2022.

Throughout the listening session, firefighters said they were concerned about an increase in the conditions causing the Marshall Fire, including faster winds, higher temperatures and drought caused by climate change.

The meeting in Fort Collins was one of the last of a week-long trip that included stops in Lakewood, Durango, Steamboat Springs and Grand Junction.

Hearing from firefighters in the field, Oates said, increases fire data and allows researchers to learn about each community’s personal concerns. Some of them were similar across the state, such as electrical and water system safety. Others, such as the migration of people to the interface between nature and the urban, prevailed in discussions between Front Range agencies.

The researchers were scheduled to wrap up their rounds in Colorado Springs and La Junta on Friday. Oates said the assessment will be released later this year and he hopes it will help agencies across the state better understand changing fire risks.

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