With red flag warnings going into effect this week, combined with high temperatures and low humidity, agencies are bracing for possible wildfires.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Forest Service began prepositioning additional firefighting resources in southwestern Colorado.
Three single engine air tankers and an air attack plane have been ordered for the Durango Air Tanker Base, and a helitack crew for the Archuleta County Airport. Seven additional fire engines, three fire prevention patrols, and miscellaneous supervisory overhead resources will also be prepositioned at the San Juan National Forest's three ranger districts in Bayfield, Dolores and Pagosa Springs.
Other federal agency resources include a Bureau of Land Management helitack crew stationed out of the Montezuma County Airport, and the Mesa Verde National Park Type 3 helicopter and helitack crew at the Old Fort Lewis Campus south of Hesperus.
Forest Service personnel couldn't say if the aircraft was still in the area later this week.
"It changes on a daily, if not hourly basis, because the resources - both air and ground - are ordered back and forth by several different entities and areas," said Ann Bond, a spokewoman for the San Juan National Forest. Wildfire updates posted by the San Juan National Forest on TWITTER@SanJuanNF
La Plata Electric Association also is preparing for possible fires.
"Safety is a number one priority for LPEA and our crews," said Justin Talbot, manager of operations. "We are being pro-active and what this may mean with our safety steps and checks is that, in the event of an outage, it will take us a little longer to restore power, and we hope our members will understand."
At a location where line/equipment damage has prompted an outage, linemen will do extra patrols of the affected section of line to make sure no other flammable objects are touching the electrical equipment. Only then will the all-clear be given and the line re-energized. The linemen will then remain at the location to ensure no embers are smoldering.
"These steps will lengthen our response time just a little, for precautionary purposes, which could be very important if a fire has been sparked," said Talbot. "Also, all our vehicles are now equipped with watering systems to douse any sparked fires."
LPEA has line personnel on stand-by throughout the night - one Journeyman Lineman each in Durango, Bayfield/Ignacio and Pagosa Springs. In the event of more serious conditions, additional line personnel will be called to an outage location.
"We coordinate closely with county emergency personnel so we can be ready and in place if a fire approaches our electrical system, such as a distribution line, transmission line or substation," said Talbot.
"We're also asking our customers to be aware - be our eyes," said Curt Marlatt, line superintendent. "If you've got an outage, go outside and survey your property, as well as your neighbors', for downed power lines, smoke or a visible fire. If you see anything, call 9-1-1 immediately - then call LPEA at 247-5786."
In a similar effort, LPEA's contracted tree trimming crews, which are currently working in Archuleta County, have been asked to remain in their work areas following the last use of a chain saw to ensure that they have sparked no fires.
"And customers living in wooded areas, please look up - look at the trees that are near the electrical lines," said Marlatt. "If you notice large branches that could potentially fall through the lines on a windy day, or a dead tree in the right-of-way, give us a call. We will come check it out and if it is a potential hazard, we can take care of it."