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Ptarmigan Fire: Helos bring the water

Denver Water reservoirs an important resource for firefighters.

The Ptarmigan Fire ignited northeast of Silverthorne on Sept. 27, burned almost 100 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and forced the evacuation of approximately 300 homes in Summit County.

Helicopter picks up water to fight Ptarmigan Fire
Helicopters collect water from Dillon Reservoir during the efforts to contain the Ptarmigan Fire near Silverthorne, Colorado. Photo credit: John Baker, safety specialist at Denver Water.

Although the wildfire didn’t burn in a Denver Water watershed, it did spread near Dillon Reservoir, Denver Water’s largest reservoir, with a capacity of 257,000 acre-feet. 

As the fire grew, the U.S. Forest Service used helicopters to collect water from Dillon Reservoir as part of its effort to suppress the flames.

Typically, the amount of water drawn from Denver Water reservoirs to help suppress fires is small, as it was with the Ptarmigan Fire. Even so, the U.S. Forest Service works closely with Denver Water and reports back to the utility on how much was used.

Ptarmigan Fire burns through the forest
As of Sept. 29, the Ptarmigan Fire has grown to almost 100 acres, causing the evacuation of hundreds of homes in Summit County. Photo credit: John Baker, safety specialist at Denver Water.

It’s just one small way Denver Water partners with others to reduce the threat of wildfire to its operations, people and watersheds. 

A far bigger approach comes through the From Forests to Faucets program, a collaboration involving Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado’s State Forest Service and the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Read how proactive forest management helped save $1 billion worth of homes and infrastructure from a 2018 wildfire in Summit County.

The From Forests to Faucets Partnership at a glance:

  • Over 100,000 acres of forested land have been restored in Denver Water’s priority watersheds.
  • Partners have committed $66 million between 2010 and 2022 to help restore forests to a more resilient condition, which reduces the risk of the kind of high-intensity fire that does long-term damage to land, soils, vegetation and waterways.
  • Planted over 1.4 million trees in the Buffalo Creek and Hayman burn scars.
Ptarmigan Fire burns along the hillside near Dillon Reservoir
Denver Water promotes forest health and reduces risks of wildfire through its From Forests to Faucets program. Photo credit: John Baker, safety specialist at Denver Water.