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“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
– Henry David Thoreau  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 10 October 2019  

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  Wildfire outlook and drones in the fire service
  By Robin Widmar

   Wildfire outlook
   In 2018, Colorado witnessed another historic year for wildfires. Ongoing drought conditions led to the second-worst fire season in state history, according to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.
   
   CDFPC statistics show that local fire agencies reported 6,184 wildland fires last year that burned 250,297 acres on state and private lands. Falcon firefighters battled several large grass fires in the Falcon area between February and April. They also assisted other agencies with large wildfires, including the Mile Marker 117 fire in southern El Paso County.
   
   What will 2019 bring in terms of wildfires? State fire experts cannot predict the future better than anyone else; but, in a May 7 briefing to the governor, CDFPC personnel said they expect a slightly below average fire season. The CDFPC outlook can be attributed to higher snowpack levels and long-range meteorological forecasts predicting a somewhat cooler and wetter summer and fall.
   
   However, that does not mean citizens can let down their guard when it comes to wildfire mitigation and preparation. As noted in the Colorado 2019 Wildfire Preparedness Plan:
   
   “Due to natural fuels build up, declining forest health and increased population in wildland-urban-interface areas, wildfires that exceed the control efforts of local and county resources are becoming more common.”
   
   Additionally, the grasses and brush that have been flourishing with recent precipitation can quickly dry out during periods of warm, dry and windy weather; leaving plenty of fuels for a fire to consume.
   
   The Falcon Fire Protection District offers free property mitigation assessments for residents of the fire district. Call 719-495-4050 during normal business hours to schedule an appointment. Mitigation information can also be found on the FFPD website: https://falconfirepd.org
   
   Drones in the fire service
   The April 15 fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris stunned the world. The fire’s location in the roof of the famed structure made for a difficult fire suppression effort. But Paris firefighters received help from a high-tech tool that is growing more popular with public safety agencies across the globe: a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), more commonly known as a drone.
   
   AviationToday.com, citing the French newspaper “Le Parisien,” reported that Paris firefighters utilized two sUAS to help assess the fire’s location and progress and to effectively position fire suppression resources. This helped firefighters stop the fire from destroying the 850-year-old landmark. “It is thanks to these drones, to this new technique absolutely essential today, that we were able to make tactical choices to stop this fire at a time when it was potentially occupying the two belfries,” said Paris Fire Brigade Bureau Chief Gabriel Plus (translated from French). “The drones made it possible to properly engage the means at our disposal.” The sUAS have also been instrumental in conducting damage assessments after the fire.
   
   Fire departments across the U.S. have been merging drone technology into their daily operations for several years. The sUAS can quickly gather critical information, minimize risk to personnel, and perform search and rescue tasks during an emergency incident. Drones can be equipped with cameras that record video footage and still images, and transmit them in real-time to incident commanders. They can be outfitted with infrared and thermal imaging cameras, as well as hazardous materials detectors and monitors.
   
   Among the uses identified by fire service personnel:
  • Perform 360-degree scene surveys to assess fire conditions, structural collapse or potential collapse issues or hazardous materials spills
  • Locate wildland fire ignitions and assess fire spread
  • Conduct search and rescue in difficult terrain or during natural disasters
  • Conduct damage assessments after fires or disasters
  • Evaluate training evolutions and large-scale training scenarios
  • Capture 360-degree images for pre-incident planning, fire investigation, and post-incident reviews

   In response to increased use of sUAS in the fire service, in January 2019, the National Fire Protection Association released NFPA 2400, “Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations.” This standard details minimum requirements for safe operation, deployment and implementation of unmanned aircraft in the fire service.
   
   The Falcon Fire Protection District has been exploring the possibility of a drone program since 2016. However, operating a sUAS for public safety purposes is not as simple as buying a drone and starting to fly it. The Federal Aviation Administration currently has two options for fire departments to comply with its requirements for non-recreational use. One is for the agency to apply for a Certificate of Authorization that specifies areas of operation, how and when drones will be used, pilot training and preflight procedures among other items. The other option is to operate under 14 CFR Part 107 rules for pilots and aircraft. Under Part 107, pilots take a written test at an FAA testing facility to obtain a remote pilot airman certificate. Each option has pros and cons that must be carefully considered before launching a drone program.
   
   In addition to meeting FAA requirements, fire departments must identify their specific sUAS needs, develop comprehensive policies and procedures and budget for initial and recurring program expenses. A sUAS is not included in the FFPD 2019 budget, but one department member has been able to undergo training funded by a grant from a private company. The district also has applied for grants to obtain equipment but has not yet received any funding.
   
   Website: http://www.falconfirepd.org
   Facebook: Falcon Fire Department
   Twitter: @FalconFireDept
   NextDoor.com
  
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  Safety Tip
   Water safety tips
  By Robin Widmar

   There is plenty of summertime fun to be had on, in and near water, even in a landlocked state like Colorado. Unfortunately, every year there are also many water-related tragedies. According to National Safety Council statistics, about 10 people die every day from drowning in the U.S. Of 3,709 drownings in 2017, more than 12 percent were children age 4 and younger.
   
   Whether summer activities include trips to the local pool, hanging out by a peaceful river or boating across a lake, water safety needs to be a top priority. The key is being mindful and attentive. In the seconds it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line or apply sunscreen, a child or weak swimmer can drown.
   
   The American Red Cross offers three general tips to ensure safety around water.
  1. Make sure every family member knows basic water and swimming skills. This includes being able to enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, change position, swim a distance and then safely exit the water.
  2. Employ layers of protection (barriers to prevent access to water, life jackets, etc.) and closely supervise children to prevent drowning.
  3. Know what to do in a water emergency, including how to safely help someone in trouble in the water, call for emergency help and perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

   Other tips:
   
  • Never swim alone.
  • Inexperienced swimmers should stay in water less than chest deep.
  • Do not dive into water less than 9 feet deep.
  • Stay away from pool drains, pipes and other openings
  • Never swim after drinking alcohol. (Alcohol is involved in about half of all male teen drownings, according to KidsHealth.org)

   The U.S. Forest Service website offers comprehensive information for safely enjoying water recreation at rivers, lakes, waterfalls and more: https://www.fs.fed.us/visit/know-before-you-go/water-safety
   
   More water safety information:
   American Red Cross (https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety.html)
   Drowning Prevention Foundation (http://drowningpreventionfoundation.com/water-safety-tips/)
  
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