|By Staci Matlock, The Santa Fe New Mexican|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
It was a team of trained firefighters working under contract for a private insurance company.
These firefighters for hire are an increasingly hot commodity as the number of homes in high-fire-risk areas increases.
In the last five years, an increasing number of insurance companies have added fire prevention and protection to their list of services for their customers.
Firefighters on the private crews are trained and meet the same requirements as certified firefighters with the
"If we save some homes, it pays for the whole program," Fuhriman said. "If we educate our homeowners and they take some action, you can't quantify that."
Privately contracted wildfire teams aren't the first responders. They serve as a trained, free resource to back up official federal, state or municipal wildfire teams, operating under a centralized incident command system.
Torgerson's company does more for insurers such as
Contract wildfire resources aren't new.
In the last few years, as wildfires have increased in size and numbers, insurance companies have started contracting with experienced teams.
Private contract firefighters present both a risk and benefit to public firefighting services, such as the city of
Two weeks before the
"When fires do hit, since these companies have built a relationship with locals and fire incident command teams, we're gaining some confidence that they'll take care of their own so we don't have to put as many resources on those homes," Litzenberg said.
He envisions a potentially larger role for teams contracted by insurance companies. "If they were able to insure all of Cerros Colorados [a
"I think this private firefighting is up-and-coming."
The private companies gained some national attention in 2010 when private firefighters saved 10 homes during
What: Wildland Urban Interface Summit, with the theme "Fire is at Your Door --
When: Tuesday and Wednesday
BY THE NUMBERS
Total acres burned in 2011: 1,089,769
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