~ by Trevor Phipps ~
A group of local firefighters from the Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District has returned to safety after battling dangerous blazes in California.
Once California realized their problem with forest fires was extremely severe, they declared a state of national emergency and especially sought assistance from states in the West. Colorado came to their aid by providing 20 engines to help with California’s deadly fire epidemic, resulting in the damage of more than 5,500 homes, killing at least 40 people and scorching more than 200,000 acres.
As part of this emergency effort, a crew from Northeast Teller Fire Protection District was deployed to offer California much needed assistance.
The local fire department sent out a type-3 engine, with three firefighters, along with one firefighter from the Colorado Springs Utilities Catamount Wildland Team. Firefighters Daniel Battin, Dalton Lane, David Prutsman (from Northeast Teller), and David Chavez (from the CSU Catamount Wildland Team), were deployed for the recent mission.
Battin served as the engine boss for the mission. He also has assumed the role as Wildland Coordinator within the Northeast Teller County Fire Department.
According to Battin, after the team was accepted for the mission, his crew hit the road and joined forces in Chino, California. Once the crew arrived in Chino, they were assigned to help fight fires near Santa Rosa. Their specific mission as a type-3 engine was to provide structure protection and to aid with structure preparation. The four-man crew was part of a 5-engine strike team, which represented a 20- engine task force.
The team recently returned to Woodland Park after they were gone for 10 days including travel time. Fortunately, members of the team didn’t incur any injuries.
According to Battin, his role as Northeast Teller’s Wildland Coordinator involves analyzing what resources the agency has available to assist other parts of the country when needed. Every year during the wildland fire season from March to October, Battin assesses the fire department’s resources and determines what the department has available. Battin tabulates this on a monthly basis, according to the potential risk the Teller County area may encounter with potential fires. Then, he figures out what crew members and resources the department can allocate to areas outside the county.
When the coordinator was asked why the department worked so hard to help out with fires in other parts of the country, he replied that the agency feels obligated to assist with national firefighting efforts. According to Battin, the Northeast Teller Fire Department believes that it is important to help other struggling agencies because there is a chance Teller County may need help with local firefighting efforts in the future. This occurred in the past during such devastating blazes as the Hayman and Waldo Canyon fires. For the last several years, Teller County has found itself out of severe fire dangers and is often asked to assist states with fire emergencies. But this emergency pendulum could easily change again.
On a personal level, Battin and his crew enjoy traveling to other locales to help with wildland fires because he says it provides an excellent training opportunity. By traveling to other locations within the country, Battin and his crew also gain experience on how to fight fires in different situations that present much different terrain than Teller County. Battin’s crew also believes that it is an important patriotic duty to partake in firefighting efforts in other states of the country.
Overall, Battin appeared thrilled to have the chance to travel west and help California with their current historically devastating wildland fire epidemic that is slowly receding. This scenario was further hampered by record high temperatures. For example, by the start of the World Series in Los Angeles, the mercury climbed to over 100 degrees for a mid-October night. This epidemic signaled a red alert scenario, even for Los Angeles.
Battin also lauded local district leaders in helping to make this mutual aid effort a reality.
“We would like to thank our community for giving us the ability to help fight fires in other states. We hope to continue to help out with national firefighting efforts,” said Battin.