Jeffco lends a hand to help against fires and hurricanes

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/31/20

Jefferson County may have so far been spared from the recent natural disasters wreaking havoc throughout Colorado and elsewhere in the country, but that hasn't stopped the county from getting …

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Jeffco lends a hand to help against fires and hurricanes

Posted

Jefferson County may have so far been spared from the recent natural disasters wreaking havoc throughout Colorado and elsewhere in the country, but that hasn't stopped the county from getting involved in the effort to respond to them.

With major wildfires erupting around the state, both the West Metro Fire Protection District, which covers significant portions of Jefferson and Douglas County, and the Arvada Fire Protection District have sent personnel to join the firefighting efforts.

West Metro Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Rhonda Scholting said that as of Aug. 27 the agency had three firefighters deployed to the Cameron Peak Fire near Fort Collins.

“For the West Metro crew here, they're working the night shift and staying in a spike camp (a secondary camp further out from the main camp) in Poudre Canyon,” said Scholting. “They do not have much in the way of cell service.”

According to a Facebook post from the agency, the team assigned to the Cameron Peak Fire is a rapid extraction team consisting of wildland fire and rope rescue experts.

“They will be ready to respond if firefighters are injured and need to be rescued from steep, inaccessible terrain,” the post read.

Scholting said West Metro had also sent other personnel that had worked in non-frontline roles—two as communications technicians and two as medical unit leaders that had since returned home. West Metro had also had a crew at the Williams Creek Fire in Pueblo County.

Meanwhile, Arvada Fire Protection District Public Information Office Deanna Harrington said on Aug. 27 that her agency currently had five firefighters deployed to Colorado forest fires. That total included a team of three that were deployed with one of the agency's brush trucks to the Grizzly Creek Fire near Glenwood Springs and two Battalion Chiefs at the Cameron Peak Fire.

The current Brush crew at the Grizzly Creek Fire was sent to relieve another crew that had been at the fire for 14 days, the longest a fire crew is allowed to remain at a forest fire.

Tanker Base

Above and beyond the ground crews, Jeffco has also played another important role in Colorado's wildfire fight: providing the air base where dozens of planes have been prepped before departing to dump fire retardant on the fire.

On August 19, the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield posted on Facebook that tankers had flown more than 100 missions from the US Forest Service Jeffco Air Tanker Base during the prior week.

Although the airport has a Broomfield address, it is located on the northernmost edge of Jefferson County and has carried Jefferson County's name since it was established in 1983. It is managed by the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland.

Ben Miller, the airport development coordinator for Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, said the tankers are contracted by fire agencies and come to the airport to be loaded up with fire retardant which they then drop on the fires.

“For us, we are just happy to provide a safe runway space and be able to host them as they do this important job,” Miller said.

Hurricane Response

While some Jeffco firefighters were on the ground at those fires, others were preparing to travel to a tragedy much farther afield. On Aug. 26, West Metro Fire tweeted that 80 members of Colorado Task Force 1 (CO-TF1) were getting on the road to Texas, to help with search and rescue efforts in the wake of Hurricane Lauren.

The task force, which is one of 28 FEMA Search and Rescue teams in the nation, is sponsored by West Metro, consists of members of fire agencies from across Colorado, including five Arvada firefighters. As the storm drew closer to the gulf coast, the team was instead ordered to Shreveport, Louisiana.

Harrington said that when it comes to determining how many resources to send to disaster areas, an agency must always remain mindful of its primary purpose.

“We've always got to balance our desire to help with our need to make sure we have resources for our community,” Harrington said. “That has to be our number one priority.”

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