New technology could allow nighttime aerial wildfire suppression in Colorado

State

LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — Following a historic year for wildfires in Colorado, state fire officials could be considering new tactics for 2020.

Among them: nighttime aerial drops, something that’s never happened before in Colorado.

Zachery Sullivan works for Colorado Fire Aviation, which already has contracts with the state for daytime firefighting operations. 

He says the company has been working for the past two years to bring night operations to Colorado. 

“2020 brought us things that we’ve never seen, so we wanted to bring that technology here and say here’s a way to fight these fires that we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Currently, Colorado Fire Aviation operates nine single engine air tankers throughout Colorado, Nevada and Oregon, including two tankers operated out of the Northern Colorado Regional Airport and four tankers out of Grand Junction.

Wednesday night, crews simulated a fire near Heaven’s Gate Ranch, west of Loveland.

Colorado Fire Aviation simulates a nighttime aerial wildfire suppression on May 26, 2021, near Heaven’s Gate Ranch west of Loveland. (KDVR)

The idea was to simulate a fire on the east ridge, creeping back down the slope to the west.

Tankers performed eight separate drops, using night-vision goggles to perform the task.

“Getting a couple extra hours in to be able to paint around those houses, and be sure that maybe that fire works around them through the night, is a big advantage of the night flying stuff for us,” Sullivan said.

The goal of the nighttime operations would be to keep fires in check until morning light, when retardant lines could be backed up with ground resources, according to Sullivan.

Calls to the state regarding nighttime operations were not immediately returned Wednesday.

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