New safeguards to prevent state-set fires from going out of control have won unanimous approval in the state Senate, and a new report is noting “serious concerns” with two mass calling systems that were used to send evacuation notices to thousands of residents during the Waldo Canyon Fire last year.
The Senate voted 34-0 without debate Wednesday in favor of new safety curbs on prescribed burns on state forest land. The safeguards include a new requirement that people attend the fire as long as it’s burning, along with a requirement that nearby residents are alerted to planned burns.
The bill now heads to the House.
In a report written by Colorado Public Utilities Commission chief engineer Gary Klug report for the El Paso-Teller Counties E911 Authority that was released Wednesday Klug says one system called MassCall needs to be tested, fine-tuned and modified based on calling capacities of technology in the area. He says the other system, known as the Communicator! NXT Server, is constrained by the number of circuits connecting it to the telephone network.
Klug also found that a couple who died in the fire was served by an unnamed telecommunications provider that hadn’t provided the couple’s number for a 911 database or emergency notifications.
Another bill advancing in the Senate would raise limits for recovering damages incurred on account of government wrongdoing.
Both measures are a reaction to the Lower North Fork Fire west of Denver last year. That blaze killed three and was caused by a prescribed burn coordinated by state officials to reduce risks of a catastrophic wildfire.
The Waldo Canyon Fire occurred back to back with Colorado’s High Park Fire near Fort Collins, which burned 259 homes. They are considered the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado’s history, and will cost insurers roughly $450 million, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.