After the Fire - some thoughts from the Fire Chief
First of all - to our friends and neighbors, welcome home. It has been a harrowing time - nearly 3 weeks of evacuation. It was hard for your RCVFD responders - and we were involved and active. For those of you who had to sit back and trust in fire crews, I can't imagine how difficult this time has been. I would encourage you to take care of each other and yourselves. I'm seeing signs of stress in people - whether you lost a home or building, or not, people are on edge (understandably). Yesterday, we (RCVFD) rolled out on a smoke report at the request of the type 3 ICT, and more than one person asked me - "Do we need to prepare to evacuate again?" or "It is safe to leave my house and go to town?" This has been a traumatic time and while the fire is mostly out, the event is not over. By supporting and helping each other, we can come out of this stronger.
During the fire, your RCVFD firefighters worked alongside hundreds of others to get to a place where we could all come home and we are weary, but content. To our freinds who have lost a home, our hearts are heavy and the tears still roll. Know that we would have done anything we could have to save the place you call home. Sometimes we could not. But - we will be here as the community rebuilds, not only as firefighters and emergency responders, but neighbors. To the family of Linda Steadman, we express our sincere condolences. Words cannot adequately express how I feel - and the heaviness I felt that night as we realized Linda may be at her home, and we could not get there.
Over the next few days/weeks I hope to add to the web page some more detailed information, some thoughts, some reflections on the High Park Fire and those involved. I know there are many unasked and unanswered questions and we will try to provide answers. In addition - there are many misconceptions that have appeared in the press or online. As we become aware of those - we will try to correct and inform.
We will certainly be adding information that may be useful - where to get help, etc. Right now - it is hard to add items to this page, as like most, I have no internet.
The High Park Fire was, briefly, the most destructive fire in Colorado's history and certainly eclipses anything we have seen. Sadly, our loss was quickly overtaken by the Waldo fire in Colorado Springs. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost in that fire. In some cases, crews from that area were here helping us when that fire broke out. I remember one instance when I was talking to the structure division supervisor and we got a request to release a fire tender on a "hardship release". When crews come to a fire, they commit to 2 weeks - this fire tender was asking to be released early. Why? - they were from Colorado Springs. Of course he was released immediately - get home to 'your' fire!
But I digress.
The stories of the High Park fire abound - and many will never be told or known - but maybe some will.
As you return home, you may find notes from fire crews. You may find evidence of the work they did - fire lines, trimmed trees/bushes, items moved from decks and away from the house. I've been asked "Who did this? I'd like to say thanks!" The truth is that it could have been any of a 100 engine crews or one of a thousand fire fighters. It could have been an RCVFD engine - or somebody who you have never seen. We will never know the stories - but I do know that the the crews who came in to help us treated our homes like their own. I'll never forget the unknown voices on our own RCVFD radio channels, talking about homes and roads they had never seen a week before, but know intimantely now. We have some new nicknames. Ford Hill became known as "the pass". One of the items I will preserve at station one is a large printout of houses. Every house in our area was listed and notes from fire crews added. Everything from "watered chickens" to "check this house every 2 hours." Notes written by crews as they left at the end of shift each day so the incoming crews would be ready.
Finally, on behalf of both RCVFD and other fire crews - the support shown by residents of the fire area and Fort Collins was truely inspiring and helpful. I had more than one out of area crew mention they had never seen such an outpouring of support as they saw in Fort Collins. The drive home from the fire each day to the ICP on west LaPorte was a highlight as people lined the streets and thanked the crews. They appreciated it - it made a difference.
Bob Gann - Fire Chief, RCVFD
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