Waldo fire report: City must improve communication, documentation

fire_whats-nextBetter communication, documentation,  logistics support and training on incident management are four areas in which the city needs to make improvements, as detailed in the After Action Report on Waldo Canyon Fire.

The report, released Wednesday, details the city’s strengths in working the Waldo Canyon fire and outlined areas for improvement.

The Waldo Canyon fire started June 23, about three miles west of the city. The 18-day fire burned 18,247 acres and 347 houses. Two people died.

In post 9/11, there had been an effort for joint communication among the city’s public safety agencies, which included planning and training and exercises. This was viewed a strength during the fire, the report said. The city’s personnel, government partners and local non-profit agencies were dedicated in their response to the fire and pre-existing relationships helped the coordinated response  — also viewed as a strength.

However, the situation would have been better if scribes, scattered at various geographic locations, tracked decisions in real time to serve as a link between locations. The city also needs additional logistics training for staff and volunteers to assist with providing support in all aspects of the incident. Documenting the dates, times and decisions of every move proved to be an overwhelming task, the report said.

“Accurate, detailed documentation was not captured throughout the city’s response to
this incident, beginning on the first day and lasting throughout,” the report said.
The city responders focused on the immediate needs related to fighting the fire,
evacuating residents, protecting property and informing the public. During this initial
response, and for the duration of the incident, real-time detailed, accurate documentation was not always recorded.
On most incidents, documentation can be completed immediately following an individual’s response but in this incident, multiple operation periods spanning 18 days prevented responders from “catching up” on documentation at the end of each shift/operational period. This type of documentation is important to ensure that tracking decisions and responses is recorded in an accurate and timely fashion, the report said.
The city also needs to work on its incident command system. Training had been in place for first-responders. But the fire highlighted the need for advanced training, the report said.

The 111-page report goes through the fire response hour by hour, day by day. It lists who talked to who and who tweeted what.

In October 2012, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture’s secretary requesting a comprehensive and scientific review of the Waldo Canyon and High Park Fires. That study expects to highlight the interdependancies among the various local, state and federal response agencies.

Read the city’s After Action report on the city’s website.