EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Authorities Thursday announced the creation of a collaboration involving six local fire departments to improve wildfire response at a time when the area is experiencing more fires.
The new partnership involves firefighters from Fountain, Fort Carson, Hanover, Security, Stratmoor Hills and Southwest Highway 115; they had already been working cooperatively for many years under The South Group, but the new entity is officially called SoCo -- which stands for the Southern Colorado Interagency Wildland Fire Team -- and focuses specifically on wildfires.
Planning for SoCo began in January and the new entity has been in operation since April, but members announced its formation Thursday after completing administrative tasks and finalizing leadership roles and member responsibilities.
Members said that they formed the team to prevent the kind of fires that have turned into major disasters in Colorado over the past few years -- such as the Marshall Fire near Boulder, just before New Year's Day and the most destructive in state history -- and respond faster to an increase in smaller fires within the South Group area.
"The need for wildland (firefighting) is growing, day by day, year by year. It's only getting worse," said Battalion Chief Chuck James, of the Security Fire Department.
The team has 18 members so far -- all volunteers -- but expects to add more eventually, and also continues to recruit new volunteers.
SoCo Superintendent Shane Coyne said that the team's goal is to use the same cooperation and cooperation existing in The South Group to respond faster and more effectively to local wildfires.
"On these red flag days, we're actually manning extra apparatus or combining with apparatus that are already being manned down here," he explained. "So that when the fire call does come out, we're on the scene way quicker and we're not trying to respond from various locations throughout the county to get here."
Fort Carson Fire Chief Robert Fisher said that the new team also could be helpful in stopping fires on-pose from spreading into surrounding neighborhoods, causing damage and forcing evacuations -- as the Carson/Midway Fire did on 2018 after it was sparked by artillery training.
"And with this team, we can actually collaborate together, use those resources of the people we have, so that we can get ahead and do the mitigation that we need to do, to eliminate possible trespass fires, as they're called," he said.
Send an email message to SOCOwildlandfire@gmail.com if you're interested in volunteering.