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Protocol dictated firefighters’ actions

Aspen Times writer

Dear Editor:I would like to respond to a letter published Aug. 3 from Don Dixon, who questioned the Forest Service’s failure to use a helicopter flying over the scene of a fire last Sunday to scoop a bucket of water out of Lost Man Reservoir.Here’s what actually happened. Shortly after 5 p.m. four Aspen Volunteer Fire Department firefighters joined by two Forest Service firefighters responded to a lightning-strike fire. Upon arriving at the scene, incident commander Eric Gottlieb assessed that the fire was not burning in trees; rather it was a ground fire about 10 by 20 feet. Due to a radio repeater failure in the area, acting central zone fire management officer Mike Ottosen requested a helicopter to provide communications between the firefighters on the ground and the interagency dispatch center in Grand Junction. As part of the assessment of the fire situation, there was pre-planning radio chatter discussing whether water would be needed from Lost Man Reservoir to douse the fire. It is common practice to notify owners in advance should water be needed from their property. And, due to ongoing drought conditions, firefighters are sensitive to the needs of local landowners to provide water to livestock and for other needsThe severity of the fire did not warrant a water drop, nor was that the reason for the helicopter flying overhead. At no time was water requested. However, had water been requested it would have been provided immediately and the owners of the water contacted later.The firefighters successfully put the fire out before 9 p.m. and verified that the fire was completely out the following day.AVFD Fire Chief Darryl Grob complimented the firefighters on their response to the fire. He noted, “Make no mistake, if an initial attack incident commander on any fire wants air attack water delivered on that fire, that water will be there as soon as possible from the closest accessible supply.”By mutual agreement and policy, the line between water, firefighters and the fire remains the closest distance between two points. All of us, at the local, state and federal levels, remain committed to attacking our fires early and hard.Bill WestbrookAspen district ranger


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