About Rifle Interagency Helitack
The Rifle Interagency Helitack Crew is based at the Garfield County Regional Airport in Rifle, Colorado, and is composed of 5 BLM and 5 Forest Service employees. The crew provides initial attack and large fire support for the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit (UCR) which stretches from the Utah border to the Continental Divide and encompasses the White River National Forest, the Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs Field Offices of the BLM, the Colorado National Monument and parts of the Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forest. The crew is based in the Central Zone of the UCR, which is home to three Type 6 engines, a Wildland Fire Module, a National Type I Helicopter and SEAT Reload Base.
We contract a Type 3 helicopter for a 90 day contract which starts on June 1st, but often gets extended depending on local and national fire activity. We usually stay busy through June and July on and around the local unit with initial attack, and often become available nationally sometime in August when the fire season typically winds down locally. There is usually fuels work outside of fire season, which can include cutting and thinning projects, pile burning and prescribed fire implementation, but this varies greatly year to year with changing budgets and weather conditions.
Our primary mission and focus is initial attack, and usually when we’re on the home unit, that is mostly what we do. We also support on-unit extended attack fires, and provide firefighters and overhead off the crew for these incidents to the furthest extent possible while still maintaining initial attack readiness. In order to maintain a diverse experience base, we strive to get all members of the crew out on assignments and training opportunities such as single resource assignments, hot shot crew details and Type 2 crew assignments, among others. We are also involved in project work with or without the helicopter when feasible given fire activity.