Colorado wildfire conference a chance to share lessons learned

By: matt steiner
April 16, 2014 Updated: April 16, 2014 at 6:55 am

Fire officials, emergency managers and disaster planners from across Colorado will be in Glenwood Springs this week at a wildfire conference.

Doug Paul, chairman of the organizing committee for the 2014 Colorado Wildland Fire Conference, said the gathering ran for more than a decade before fading away in 2008.

According to Paul, two years of catastrophic wildfires in Colorado led a group of officials and contractors to get the conference rolling again while there's still "smoke in the air."

After four large wildfires in 2012 and 2013 - the Waldo Canyon fire, the High Park fire near Fort Collins, the Black Forest fire and the West Fork Complex fire near Creede - burned more than 220,000 acres collectively, a quintet of officials including Paul are taking a second shot at making the conference a success.

"We tried to pull this off last year and got very little interest," Paul said Monday. "We were worried for a while there (this winter), but as spring came, people got more and more interested."

As of Monday, 116 people had registered to join more than a dozen speakers for the conference that begins Wednesday and ends Thursday evening with dinner and a keynote address from Paul Brown, the director of Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research in Fort Collins.

Brown is expected to speak about "fire ecology and fires of the future."

Among the other speakers will be Colorado Springs Deputy Fire Chief Kris Cooper. Cooper will be part of two panel discussions.

"I will be speaking about what we've done in Colorado Springs on the ignition resistance construction post-Waldo Canyon," Cooper said.

Glenwood Springs Fire Marshal Ron Biggers, one of the event's organizers, asked Colorado Springs Fire Department to be a part of the conference, Cooper said.

"It's a great opportunity for us to go, share our experience, share our lessons learned and, hopefully, give them more tools for their toolboxes as they prepare for wildfire in their communities," Cooper said.

Paul said that he, Biggers and the other organizers attend smaller workshops for residents, subdivisions and neighborhood HOAs.

The conference at the Glenwood Springs Community Center will highlight the overall cost of wildfire on communities, reaching beyond the event and into post-disaster issues like damage to infrastructure and private property, subsequent flooding, and effects on watersheds.

"Our biggest goal is to educate the attendees on the big issues surrounding fire and the impacts on communities," Paul said.

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