Fire

Lessons learned from destructive Colorado Springs fire

The smoke billowed so high, wide and dark, that in a photo of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire dozens of Colorado Springs, Colo., homes are barely visible.

The inferno that burned on the Pike National Forest for 18 days lasted just four hours in Colorado Springs. But the wind-fueled fire claimed two lives, devoured 347 homes, scorched 18,247 acres and frightened the 32,000 evacuees and many others who feared how much hotter and destructive the fire could get.

It could have been worse. There are reasons that it wasn’t.

Swabbing the deck after a wildfire

Even while a wildfire is being brought under containment, the process of making sure it doesn’t get a chance to reignite begins. It’s called “mop up” and firefighters work to ensure that smoldering hot areas along the fire line are safely cooled down.

To make certain no stone or in this case branch is not overturned, firefighters often use their bare hands to feel for warm areas on the ground and then use a combination of water and hand tools to stir up and cool off hot spots.

“When I get the call”

There are many ways firefighters “get the call” to head out to a wildfire.  Usually they know the call is coming, but not always.  In my case, I’d get a call from the lead public information officer on our National Incident Management Team : “Hey, we’re headed to Lake Chelan again.”  “When do we leave,” I’d ask. “Got to be there tomorrow by 1500 (3 p.m.) so meet me at 0600 (6 a.m.) and we’ll head out.”

Chow now and how! Forest Service firefighters learn to pack on the calories

There are certain jobs in this world in which nutritionists and medical professionals alike actually encourage people to pig out during the height of activities.  Some may think of professional football players or even Navy seals having this “predicament.” 

Count the U.S. Forest Service’s wildland firefighter in that category, too.