Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wildfire Fighters, History of firefighters and Colorado fire


'Peace' in Welsh

Today I want to talk a bit about

Wildfire Fighters

As many of you might know, we are fighting a quite large fire in Colorado.
It is called the High Park Fire,
although there are one or two other fires that have combined with it.

Here in Colorado, that is one of our main dangers,
along with hail and an occasional tornado.
We have very large National Forests, all along the Rocky Mountains,
such as the Roosevelt National Forest.

High Park Fire, Poudre Canyon
6/12/2012 photo cred AAron Ontiveroz, the Denver Post

As Coloradans, we rely on our wildfire fighters.
The High Park Fire has about 2,000 firefighters,
many from all around the USA to help.

Well over 2,700 people have been evacuated from their homes.
Some residents will be able to return today,
but the fire started on June 6th!
The High Park Fire was caused by lightning.

Satellite Photo of Ft. Collins

This satellite photo shows you where the fire started near Fort Collins.
You can see it marked on the lower left side,
partially covered by a red 'I-25'
 which is the main interstate that goes through the middle of Colorado.
As you see, the smoke plume is affecting both Wyoming and Nebraska.

If you draw a diagonal line to the right, from Fort Collins to I-76,
then place a point in the middle of that line,
that is close to Brighton, Colorado, where we live.
The fire started about 60 miles of us, north west.

The current estimated cost of fighting this fire is about $19.6 million.
The fire fighters are using
18 helicopters
135 fire engines
battling around the clock, 24 hours a day.

how-to-draw a fire engine, courtesy Dover Books

So far 189 homes have burned, but experts expect this number to rise as smoke clears, and they can get into areas not available before.
Some local firefighters have lost their own homes.
The fire is only contained by 55%,
but that is considered good!

We have had one death caused by the fire.
I extend sympathies to her family.
I am so glad that no firefighters have lost their life.
We have had that happen before, here in Colorado.

photo courtesy of

On July 6, 1994 14 wildfire fighters lost their lives in the

Storm King Mountain Fire
Glenwood Springs, CO

At the time there were 50 firefighters or so on the Storm King Mountain Fire.
More had been requested, but there just weren't any available.
At the time, there were several fires burning near.
The Storm King Mountain fire was also started by lightning.
Twelve of the firefighters were trapped on steep slopes with dense vegetation, and the fire overwhemled them.
The flames reached them in less than 2 minutes.
Two more firefighters tried to outrun the fire, but were overcome.
All died.

The entire city of Glenwood Springs was so grateful for the sacrifice that the wildfire fighters had given their lives to save their city,
they erected a statue and several placques in the area.

The above photo shows the Storm King sculpture with the sculptor,
Joyce Killebrew.

The Storm King Memorial is now a stopping place for firefighter crews,
if possible, when passing through Glenwood Springs
either enroute to a fire, or returning home.
It honors all firefighters and allows visitors to reflect
on how courageous wildland firefighters are.

Colorado Central Zone Fire Management Unit
So I was interested.
What could I learn about firefighters, especially wildfire fighters?
Let's explore!
contemporary firefighters, sitting on an early fire engine,
Campbell Historic Museum
The suppression of wildfires is regulated by:
the US Department of Agriculture,
the US Forest Service,
the Bureau of Land Management
the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
That's a lot of divisions!

They are all coordinated through
the National Wildland Coordination Center.
I guess that would be
the USDA, USFS and BLM is coordinated by
the NWCC!

( a little fire humor there...)

vintage around 1941 forest fire truck

So what is wildfire suppression?
That means the fire fighting tactics that are used
to kill, smother and otherwise stop wildfires.
In wildland areas, different techniques, equipment and training are needed.

First there are the specially designed fire fighting aircraft.

a US Air Force plane drops fire retardant in Mexico

a special wildfire helicopter

There are special tools that are used in wildfire fighting:

Drip torch
McLeod (tool)
Pulaski (tool)
Fire flapper (tool)
Hazel hoe
very pistol (??)
hand held thermal detectors
sling psychrometer
portable bladder bag
two-way radio

The wildfire fighter also needs:

potable water (that means it is drinkable)
eye protection
a fire shelter
Nomex pants and shirt
a hard hat
and minimum 8" boots

These are just some of the examples!!!

a fireman hat and axe

High Line Fire, over Poudre Canyon, Colorado
photo cred Karl Gehring,

Now, there are differences between what a firefighter,
and a wildland fire fighter carries.

Here is an Arizona firefighter:

Here is William Cervera, with some typical wildland fire equipment:

A couple of regular firefighters:

If the wildfire fighter is also a
that  means she is a highly skilled and specially trained fighter
in wildfire suppression tactics.
They parachute into remote areas from aircraft to combat wildfire
and even are equipped to rappel from a helicopter!

a view of the High Line Park fire

"Wildfire trained crews suppress flames, construct fire lines
and extinguish flames and areas of heat to protect resources and natural wilderness. They also address issues of wildland/urban interface"
(where populated areas border with wildland areas).
why didn't they just say that???

Now in the 1960's, thinking changed about wild fires.
The 'people that be' started recognizing that some wild fires are ok
for the environment, and even necessary sometimes!
photo cred: mikel911

What wildfires are good for:
they are a natural process necessary for new growth.

Today we have policies that say instead of complete fire suppression,
we are to encourage wildland fire
 to be used as a tool, such as controlled burns.

a Federal firefighter, San Diego, California

Fun fact:
In Australia wild land fires are called 'bushfire'.

With any fire, the firefighter's first priority is protection of human life,
both of firefighters, and civilians (that's us folks).
There is emphasis on safety, and preventing entrapment
(a situation where escape from fire is impossible).
There are lots of different resources needed and challenges,
particular to each fire.
Radio communication is very typical for communicationg during a wildfire.

So let's say now the fire is out.
The threat of wildfire is not over, even after the flames are 'gone'.
A smoldering of fire from heavy fuels or 'hot spots'
may continue to burn for days after the flames are 'out'.

High Park Fire 7/13/2012 photo cred: AAron Ontiveroz

High winds can fan these hot spots and a 'new' fire jumps up and becomes active again.

All in all, our wildland firefighters have to be strong,
couragous, dedicated and compassionate.

A firefighter holding a rescued beaver in North Ontario, Canada

Red Cross disaster relief High Line Fire

Here is a fun maze.
I know it is not 'wildfire' or 'firefighter'
but it does have fire in it!!

Another fun how-to:

thanks to Dover Publications for their freebies!

Well, do you think you discovered something new about firefighting?
I sure did!

An update on the High Line Fire in Colorado:

6/11/2012 fire photo satellite

More than 68,200 acres have burned in Northern Colorado.

Governor John Hickenlooper has banned open burning and
private use of fireworks throughout the state.

The City of Greeley (mostly direct East of Fort Collins)
will be severely affected.
Greeley is requesting federal support estimated at about
$1,100 per acre.
This includes placing straw and possibly seed burned areas
to prevent ash from contaminating area rivers
the city's high mountain reservoirs.

a special wildfire truck

Now for some blog news:
It has become EXTREMELY frustrating to continue writing a blog
The delay time is outragous from when I type something in,
then correct one misspelling
change the font size
change the font color
insert picture
browse pictures, and choose one
let it download for blog
change size
put in 3 letters for credit
put in more letters for credit
you get the idea.

My husband has been checking and re-checking our computer
and it doesn't seem to be the problem.

Yahoo has been having some issues of slow service
but not all the time, as my blog problems would suggest.

I'm just not sure what to do next, but taking up to 6 hours
to write one blog
is a bit...shall we say....

If anyone has any ideas I sure would appreciate the help.
Thanks in advance.
Are there other blogspotters out there that have the same trouble?

Well, time to close.
Stay safe.
It's never too early to teach your kids about fire safety
keep those lighters and matches and liquid candles AWAY FROM CHILDREN!

vintage poster Fire Department, New York

Many thanks to the many resources I used for this blog:

see you soon, I hope!



1 comment:

  1. Very nicely written and a wonderful tribute to the fireman. I live just up the road from you in Ault. My daughter's inlaws live up Rist Canyon. Luckily their home survived as did their daughter and son in laws. We have several friends who live up in those mountains, some lost their homes. The inlaws are very lucky.