Local fire agencies pitch in on Colorado blazes, hurricane area

First responders deploy to locations in need of extra assistance

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/28/20

Firefighters from across the metro area were deployed to assist at the scene of Colorado wildfires and with the aftermath of Hurricane Laura on the Gulf Coast.

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Local fire agencies pitch in on Colorado blazes, hurricane area

First responders deploy to locations in need of extra assistance

Posted
Firefighters from across the metro area were deployed to assist at the scene of Colorado wildfires and with the aftermath of Hurricane Laura on the Gulf Coast.
 
South Metro Fire Rescue and the Castle Rock and Denver fire departments each sent first responders to assist with the blazes raging in the state. Also called into service were members of the West Metro Fire Protection District, which covers significant portions of Jefferson and Douglas counties, and the Arvada and Thornton fire agencies.
 
Among the blazes where local fire agencies have been assisting is the the Pine Gulch Fire, centered 18 miles north of Grand Junction, which had engulfed more than 139,000 acres as of Aug. 30, making it the largest wildfire in the state's recorded history. The fire was about 77% contained as of that date, with 646 people working to douse the blaze, according to the federal National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
 
Local crews also were sent to the Cameron Peak Fire, on the Arapahoe and Roosevelt national forests in the Medicine Bow Mountains of far northern Colorado, which remained at 0% containment and had burned across 23,000 acres as of Aug. 30, fire officials said. About 742 people were working on that blaze.
 
And the Grizzly Creek Fire, near Glenwood Springs, had burned 32,000 acres and was 73% contained as of Aug. 30, with 657 working at the scene, the NWGC said.
 
At press time, South Metro Fire Rescue had eight firefighters assisting crews battling the Pine Gulch and Cameron Peak fires and one more assisting fire prevention in Pike National Forest southwest of the metro area.
 
South Metro deployed its first two crews Aug. 13, according to spokesperson Connor Christian. The agency sent one crew of three to the Pine Gulch Fire area near Glenwood Springs and a four-person crew to the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County.
 
One battalion chief was sent to command a crew of 20 in Pike National Forest and one lieutenant safety officer was sent to assist with Pine Gulch as well.
 
The three-person crew sent to Pine Gulch came from Station 41 in Parker on a Type 3 brush truck. That crew returned Aug. 24. Another three-person crew from Station 39 in Castle Pines left Aug. 24 to replace the first Pine Gulch crew. The four-person crew fighting the Cameron Peak Fire came from Station 33 in Centennial in a Type 6 brush truck and at press time had not yet completed its deployment.
 
Crews will rotate based on roughly two-week rotations until their services are no longer needed.
 
'No negative impact locally'
 
A Type 3 brush truck can hold up to 500 gallons of water and is typically found in departments of rural, mountainous communities. A Type 6 brush truck is better suited for off-roading and can hold up to about 300 gallons of water.
 
Denver Fire sent has sent at least 60 members of its 158-person Wildland Crew to assist in the two largest local wildfires, according to the department's Twitter account. The department, which also serves the city of Englewood, also sent three wildland engines and a suppression module, a device designed to protect electrical devices from voltage spikes.
 
And Castle Rock Fire sent three firefighters to assist with the Grizzly Creek Fire.
 
“There is no negative impact locally with these deployments,” Castle Rock Fire Chief Norris Croom said in an Aug. 27 email. “We have a reserve brush truck that gets placed in service to fill in for the deployed truck, and we have sufficient staffing to allow for these deployments.”
 
West Metro Fire Protection District spokesperson Rhonda Scholting said in an email on Aug. 27 that the agency had three firefighters deployed to the Cameron Peak Fire.
 
Arvada Fire spokesperson Deanna Harrington said on Aug. 27 that her agency had five firefighters deployed to Colorado forest fires: Three sent with one of the agency's brush trucks to the Grizzly Creek Fire and two battalion chiefs at the Cameron Peak Fire.
 
And four Thornton Fire Department were loanded out to help with blazes around the state, including the Williams Fork Fire seven miles southwest of Fraser, said spokesperson Sabrina Iacovetta.
 
Called to help after Laura
 
Meanwhile, South Metro Fire Rescue and the Castle Rock and Denver fire departments, among others, sent first responders to College Station, Texas, to assist residents of the area struck by Hurricane Laura, along with other members of Colorado Task Force 1, the Colorado-based emergency response team for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
About three dozen metro area first responders from Colorado Task Force 1 joined other FEMA task force members from around the country at College Station on Aug. 27. The task force members, made up of firefighters, physicians, paramedics, hazardous materials technicians, heavy rigging specialists and canine handlers, will help in various capacities depending on the needs upon arrival, according to South Metro Fire Rescue Public Information Officer Eric Hurst.
 
Hurricane Laura struck Louisiana and the Texas coast Aug. 26 as a Category 4 storm. Gusts reached up to 150 mph, according to Weather.com.
 
Denver Fire sent 10 first responders, South Metro Fire Rescue sent 12 and Castle Rock Fire Department sent one to help with Hurricane Laura.
 
The task force could help dealing with floodwaters, technical rescues, humanitarian work or delivering supplies, Hurst said.
Colorado Task Force 1 is a Colorado-based team designed to assist search-and-rescue operations, emergency medical care and in other capacities as they are needed. The task force has about 200 members in all.
 
Department heads do not expect any diminishment in local services, according to a Denver Fire spokesperson.
 
“The large number of firefighters we have allows us to maintain these services. We will not allow that to be compromised to maintain our certification and accreditation,” the spokesperson said. “We have that in the back of our minds all the time.”
 
Reporters Paul Albani-Burgio and Scott Taylor contributed to this story.

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