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Federal and local agencies learn big lessons for latest fire

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Federal and local leaders said Friday they learned big lessons during last year's fire and applied them to the Black Forest Fire.

Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback with the Colorado National Guard says crews are calling it The Battle of Black Forest on the fire line. Federal and Local agencies had a new attack plan in deploying resources and coordinating to fight the flames.

"After the fire last year, we sat down with the military, the Forest Service, the county, and did an after-action review," said Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado). "After the action review, that allowed us to respond much more quickly to this fire."

Last year's post-Waldo Canyon Fire review determined it took too long to get federal resources into the fight.

"One thing we learned from last year (is) we need those resources to move as quickly as possible because this fire is unpredictable," said Colorado Springs Fire Department Interim Chief Tommy Smith.

Lt. Col. Utterback reviewed National Guard assests employed in the current fire fight at a press conference at 9 a.m. Friday.

"We are very streamlined in our ability to deliver military resources to this fight," said Lt. Col. Utterback.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said they learned valuable lessons from last year's fire.

"I think that changes that were made, the support of Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Udall, Congressman Doug Lamborn, the Governor's Office here, even the engagement of the military actively involved to change and streamline some of those processes produced the results that we have experienced," said Maketa.

"I've never seen federal resources deployed so quickly," said Maketa.

Sheriff Maketa and Senator Udall will evaluate their performance when the fire is finally out. They'll determine if more changes are needed for coordinating agencies response to wildfires.

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