By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — With the heat of summer approaching, the state of Colorado has put fire mitigation at the top of its “to do” list.
The Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Fire Department is doing its part to reduce the threat in the wildland urban interface.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has begun an aggressive campaign of fire mitigation in the areas surrounding CMAFS. The CMAFS Fire Department has joined the effort to reduce the fire threat on the interior portion of the perimeter fence.
“We are working on fire mitigation efforts to compliment the work that is being done by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the other side of the fence,” said Christopher Soliz, CMAFS Fire Department assistant chief. “On the Air Force side, we are working with environmental organizations to ensure that the overall health of the forest is in-line with our mitigation plan.”
Although wildfire mitigation is a continuing effort for the CMAFS fire department, it is done in a balanced and responsible manner to protect the natural environment at Cheyenne Mountain.
“We take a lot of our queues from the environmental side of the house, because we have to protect the species and trees that we have in the area,” said Soliz.
Fire mitigation does not guarantee protection against a future wildfire in the area but rather is done to lessen the impact and intensity of a blaze, giving firefighters an opportunity to apply countermeasures by removing fuel on the round.
“Putting these breaks in the ground fuels really give the firefighters up here a chance to jump on it, with either water or buckets drops,” said James McDermott, natural and cultural resources manager.
The team effort, with mutually supporting mitigation being done on both sides of the fence, will create a 60-foot firebreak to reduce the risk of an uncontrollable wildfire in the area.
“What they are doing on one side of the fence, we will match on our side. The benefit overall is for the protection of the installation and civilian housing around the perimeter,” said Soliz. “We have been managing the forest within our installation for many years — thinning it, creating fire breaks — this push along the fence line is part of a bigger picture that Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working on. The whole goal here is to keep the fire on the ground; we want to eliminate the fuels on the ground to help keep a fire from getting into the tree tops.”
With the memories of recent wildfires in the region still fresh in minds of many, the mutual effort to mitigate future fire is appropriate.
“This is about community outreach as much as it is about fire mitigation; a lot of lessons were learned from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires,” said Soliz. “Even though we have always done this, there is more of an emphasis on being prepared as a whole community.”
For more information about wildfire mitigation in the Pikes Peak Region, visit http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=101.