Welcome back, before last week the word slurry meant little to me but after my visit to New Mexico last week where I’ve been just outside Cimarron, I discovered that this red substance might just save your house from fire. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Black Forest fire in Colorado Springs. According to Miki Trost with the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as of today 482 homes destroyed have been destroyed and two people have died as the result of this one fire which has burned over 15,500 acres. With six other fires going on in Colorado approximately 30,000 acres have burned thus fire.
Although the numerous fires in New Mexico aren’t getting as much publicity as the Colorado fires, with the frequent drought in the area the risk of destruction is just as high.
I was staying just a few miles east of the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch at the UU Bar Ranch lodge and ended up a mile from the firefighter staging area for a nearby forest fire. Although the fire was burning at 10,000 ft. you could still see the flames from the lodge. You could also see the huge D.C. 10 air tankers that dropped the fire retardant gel which is super absorbent polymer slurry with a consistency like petroleum jelly. The slurry also contains a red dye which allows firefighters to track where they have dropped it. Each airplane holds 11,000 gallons of this material and they all made numerous flights on Friday and Saturday in my area. In an interview in the Denver Post “10 Tanker Air Carrier” CEO Rick Hatton said the company has also been making dumps in California, Nevada and Idaho where there are some major fires as well.
When I looked up the cost, I learned that each plane’s daily rate is $26,750 dollars plus an hourly flight rate of $4,550 dollars. I also found out that federal agencies have contacts with dozens of small plane operators and hundreds of water carrying helicopter owners. During my stay I saw three of these helicopters flying all day, every day.
I spent one entire day at the staging area watching the firefighters in action. There were also over 180 firemen on foot, three large bulldozers, backhoes, several tanker trucks and road graders. I was told that many of the firefighters, both men and women, sleep at the base camp where there were thirty porta-johns, several portable showers and a delivery system for feeding everyone. The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center in Lakewood, Colorado is the focal point for mobilization of resources for wildland fires in the Rockies. According to the Center’s manager Jim Fletcher all the slurry and water that’s dropped does help but it’s the firefighters that put the fires out not the aircraft. “It boils down to the boots on the ground.” he said.
Next week more from our neighbors in Colorado. Till then make sure to thank a firefighter and I’ll see you down the road.