Local Wildfire Experts Bracing For Busy Summer

Rifle—As a group of the valley’s finest wildfire experts prepared for a media briefing at the Rifle-Garfield County Airport, an infrared-equipped, turboprop, multi-mission aircraft was preparing to take off to check out a couple of reported fires to the north.  The plane is one of two Pilatus PC-12’s operated by the Division of Fire Prevention and Control.  Pilots flying with the Upper Colorado River Fire and Aviation Management Unit are expecting to log hundreds of hours this summer.  Josh Tibbetts, the UCR’s Deputy Unit Fire Management Officer says conditions are ripe for a busy season, not only on the Western Slope but across the west.  He says last year, the UCR responded to 163 wildfires.  97 of those were human-caused.  Tibbetts says they’re seeing an uptick in such fires this year with 15 of the 29 wildfires sparked by human error or carelessness.