Fire at Fort Carson sparked during a live fire training operation

Incident Command Station set up for Fort Carson Fire. - Abbie Burke FOX21 News

UPDATE (February 22, 2016 at 11:00 a.m.): Fort Carson said the fire on post is 65 percent contained as of 8 a.m. Monday. About 1,200 acres have burned.

Air Force Academy and Fort Carson brush fire crews remain on the scene, but the other mutual aid partners have been dismissed.

The fire is still contained to Fort Carson property and officials said there is no threat to the general community.


FORT CARSON, Colo. (February 21, 2016) — More smoke is likely Sunday as a fire on Fort Carson continues to burn, but officials say they are making good progress.

The fire started around 11 a.m. on Saturday on the southern end of the post and so far has burned 1,200 acres. It is 10 percent contained.

Garrison Commander Col. Joel Hamilton said the fire started during a Marine training operation.

“Yesterday morning we had a battalion of Marines that are training here at Fort Carson from Camp Pendleton, California, conducting live fire operations. During the conduct of live fire a small grass fire started after a target hit.”

Fire crews were on scene, but officials said it quickly spread into an inaccessible area.

“What we ran into yesterday was just extreme fire behavior,” said Incident Commander Peter Wolf with Fort Carson Fire. “We can send engines all day long but when the flames are 8 to 12 feet long and the grass is one foot tall we can’t get in there very easily.”

Hamilton said record rainfalls last year led to significant vegetation growth on the post that has provided a lot of fuels to burn. Wolf added that the size of the fire is likely to grow before they can get full containment.

“When we’re in this type of terrain and these conditions we have to kind of back off a little bit and find that terrain and those fuels that are conducive for control operations, so what we’re going to do is we’re going to back off a little bit,” said Wolf.

Officials stressed the fire is not a danger to the general community and is contained to the installation.

“It puts up a lot of smoke and creates a lot of concern but again we’ve got it well contained within the installation at this time and numerous resources on it,” said Wolf.

About 60 firefighters are on the ground and more resources have been requested. There are also two Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters dropping water. Crews from El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Hanover, the Air Force Academy, Cheyenne Mountain and Fort Carson Fire have responded.

No structures are being threatened and crews continue to work at building fire lines using heavy equipment.

“We’re very confident that we’re going to be able to contain this fire and we’ve also been very fortunate that we’ve had cooperation with Mother Nature,” said Hamilton.

Fires sparked during training is not uncommon and Hamilton said there are actually benefits to them.

“Those areas now serve as a backstop, as kind of a barrier themselves, because the vegetation has been knocked down.”

He added that Fort Carson does take extra precautions during trainings when it comes to fire danger.

“We have in Colorado here what’s known as Red Flag conditions and yesterday we would not have fired had we been under Red Flag conditions. Yesterday during the firing window those conditions did not exist,” he said.

Still, Wolf said they chose to put fire resources on site just in case.

“We pre-identify areas that are a concern,” he said. “We look at the training schedules and identify trainings that we consider to be a high or moderate risk. We go down and look at those areas, look at those conditions, get the weather forecast and begin to kind of predict what that could do if we get a fire. We did do that in this situation. We did run a full risk assessment, we did have concerns and that’s why we did put fire crews on site.”

“Those actions I think are going to prove beneficial here as we continue to contain this fire,” said Hamilton.

Fort Carson said the training missions that are conducted there are crucial.

“Talking with the Marine Unit Commander yesterday this is a training exercise that they are not able to conduct at Camp Pendleton, due to the size of the installation and the proximity to urban areas,” said Wolf. “So they come here to do that type of training and it’s very beneficial.”

“It’s incredibly vital because that’s how we fight abroad, is with our sister services, so that’s critical,” said Hamilton.

The ranges have been shut down in the area of the fire but training continues in other areas on the post.

“We do have assets available and resources available if they start an additional fire,” said Wolf.

Fort Carson is 138,000 acres, with more than 125,000 acres of dry brush land.

Wolf said they are hopeful to have the fire 30 to 40 percent contained by Sunday evening.

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