Colorado sends multi-mission aircraft south to help fight Texas wildfires

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control sent one of its firefighting aircraft to help with multiple wildfires in Texas.

Over the past seven days, firefighters have responded to 178 wildfires in Texas that have burned a total of 108,493 acres as of Monday morning, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Colorado’s DFPC said its multi-mission aircraft (MMA) and four DFPC crewmembers plus a liaison left for Texas on March 18 after a request for assistance from the Texas A&M Forest Service. The MMA will detect new fires, determine fires’ perimeters and other data, and aid incident command personnel in decision-making. It will respond to the wildfires based on the prioritized direction from Texas fire officials, said Caley Pruitt, public information officer with DFPC.

Below are updates on some of the major wildfires burning in Texas as of Monday morning, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service:

  • The seven wildfires in the Eastland Complex in Eastland County have burned about 54,134 acres. It is 30% contained
  • The Big L Fire in Erath and Hood Counties is about 11,000 acres and 20% contained. The forest service said it is still active, but crews were able to stop its growth
  • The Ramsey Fire in Brown County is about 1,500 acres and 5% contained
  • The Sunday Late Fire in Live Oak County is 175 acres and 95% contained
  • The Three Sections Fire in McMullen County is 687 acres and 100% contained
  • The Wells 2 Fire in Archer County is 1,027 acres and 100% contained
  • The Marion 1009 Fire in Marion County is 256 acres and 100% contained
  • The Nocona Hills Fire in Montague County is 600 acres and 100% contained

The forest service initially requested the MMA for two weeks, but the actual time it will stay in the state will depend on fire activity there, plus any needs in Colorado, Pruitt said.

Monday will bring rain and thunderstorms, but also strong winds, to the area, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The wildfires are already blamed for two firefighter deaths — one in Texas and one in Oklahoma, according to the Associated Press.

Colorado DFPC Director Mike Morgan said this year has the potential of being a challenging fire season. Recent snowstorms have limited wildfire potential in Colorado, allowing the state to offer support to Texas, which has helped Colorado in its own firefighting efforts.

“DFPC is honored to support our fire partners in Texas during their time of need,” he said.

Colorado has two MMAs. The second one will remain in the state.

“We are continually monitoring fire potential and activity in Colorado, and would recall the MMA back if our needs exceeded what the one remaining MMA can handle,” Pruitt said.

Both MMAs are Pilatus PC-12 airplanes. They are turbo-prop aircraft and can cruise and work above 20,000 feet when needed. The planes are based out of Centennial and can reach almost anywhere in Colorado in less than an hour.

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