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Black Forest fire chief: Radios are still a problem

By: The Associated Press
September 24, 2013 Updated: September 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm
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photo - A chinook helicopter battles the Black Forest Fire Wednesday, June 12, 2013, as high winds and near-record temperatures fuel the fire. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
A chinook helicopter battles the Black Forest Fire Wednesday, June 12, 2013, as high winds and near-record temperatures fuel the fire. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

DENVER — Twelve years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks exposed problems with a lack of communication between police and firefighters, Colorado firefighters are still having trouble because their radios are not compatible.

Black Forest Fire Department chief Bob Harvey told the Colorado Legislature's Wildfire Matters Review Committee on Monday that he had to use two radios while battling a fire that destroyed 486 homes in June.

Harvey said he had to use a third radio to talk to the military aircraft that were the first to provide air support, but the batteries were dead.

"We can look up in the sky and not know whose helicopter it is," Harvey said. "It's a problem."

Paul Cooke, director of the state Division of Fire Prevention and Control, said he did not know how much it would cost to fix the radio problem, but he expects it would take a lot of money.

Ten years ago, the state converted to a digital radio system to help local agencies communicate with each other during major emergencies and the newly formed U.S. Department of Homeland Security was handing out grants for states to bolster their emergency response systems.

In Colorado, the grant money dried up before every local police and fire department could be upgraded. The digital system also doesn't work well in mountainous areas, which requires more radios.

The legislative wildfire committee has the authority to sponsor up to eight bills. Its members will meet again Oct. 1 and Oct. 30 to come up with a list of bills for the 2014 session, which starts in January.

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Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com

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