The contract, which runs for 153 days from 1 June until 31 October 2022, will provide an ‘exclusive use helicopter’ to be used by the Douglas County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) when addressing wildfire situations in partnership with local fire departments and other agencies.
The helicopter, a Bell 205A-1 with the designation N205TA, arrived in the county on Wednesday 1 June, and will be stationed at a base in the northwest of the county.
In preparation for the use of the aircraft, OEM staff have also received training in ‘general helicopter safety, aircraft orientation, the loading and unloading of passengers and gear, aviation communications, operational deployment of firefighters’ and have also ‘practiced water drops’.
Colorado is preparing for severe wildfires this summer
It comes as 41 per cent of the state remains designated by the US Drought Monitor as subject to severe drought conditions, with a further 14.5 per cent experiencing extreme drought. In addition, high winds and unseasonably warm spring temperatures have worsened the risk along the foothills of the Front Range, and across the Eastern Plains.
At a press conference in late April, Colorado State President Steve Fenberg forecast an extreme wildfire situation in the state over the summer: “We may very well be heading into the worst fire season in our state’s history. I hope I am terribly wrong about that, but we need to prepare for the worst-case scenario.”
Wildfires are a growing concern across many US states, with the Department of the Interior stating that as many as 90 per cent are accidental.