Teague Emerges as Key Player in Battle Against High Park Blaze
The Teller County Commissioners have introduced a new key addition to their emergency leadership lineup, as part of an aggressive plan to revamp its process of responding to fires and other natural disasters.
Former Four Mile Fire Chief Jay Teague took the floor at last week’s county commissioners meeting and thanked the board for choosing him as the new director of their office of emergency management (OEM), a slot that has been vacant for several months.
Changes are expected in the running of this office, including a renewed focus on preparing citizens for wildfires.
When the pandemic struck the nation in early 2020, Teller County’s Office of Emergency Management went through some major adjustments. Around that time, Don Angell was hired into the position and his focus was shifted slightly away from wildfires and other emergencies to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
When Angell was hired as the county’s director of emergency management, the office also took a shift from operating under the sheriff’s office to being under the reins of the county administrator. However, after holding the position through the pandemic, Angell and the county administration abruptly parted ways, and the county was left with no emergency manager, period.
Now that the bad part of the pandemic is in the past, the emergency management department has taken moves to shift attention to other major public emergencies with a big focus on wildfire prevention and management. The agency went without a leader for a few months, but it was recently announced that the local fire chief would be taking the position.
Jay Teague was most recently the head of the Four Mile Fire Department whose headquarters is located west of Evergreen Station in the southwestern part of Teller County. So far this year, there have been three wildfires that have broken out in the Four Mile area.
The fire department has also assisted local departments with about a half a dozen other blazes that have broken out in and around Teller County. A few years back, the High Chateau Fire was another major blaze that ignited within the Four Mile Fire District’s boundaries.
A Solid Success Record In Combating Disasters
Even with a small department, the Four Mile Fire agency has vast experience dealing with some of the county’s biggest emergencies in the past. Chief Teague headed the department for two and a half years before deciding to take the OEM director job.
Prior to his service leading Four Mile Fire Protection District, Teague served for the Department of Defense (DOD) for more than 20 years. While with the DOD, Teague served as a medic, firefighter, and hazardous materials technician.
Teague said that he took the director job because he felt he would be a good fit through his career experiences. “I wanted to be part of the Teller team and serve the county in a broader role involving emergency management,” the new OEM director said. “Having been in emergency services my whole life it seemed to be a natural transition into the director’s role. I truly enjoyed serving the board and community of Four Mile Fire Protection and will remain affiliated with them serving anyway possible.”
Teague said that he has several goals moving forward including building upon what has already been accomplished with the office and previous leaders. He said he plans to progress and advance the efficiency of the agency to minimize the impact local emergencies have on residents and their properties.
Despite the county’s amazing success in combating the recent High Park fire, the new OEM director stated that wildfires will continue to be a major focus of his office. “Probably my biggest challenge right now is the horrendous fire season we currently face,” Teague said. “I was briefed during the High Park fire that we haven’t had a year this extreme for fire conditions since 2011.”
He said that he plans to use examples of how well local emergency agencies have done fighting fires in the past to help combat future blazes. He said that due to the conditions this year, there is a good chance that the county could see another major wildfire break out before the summer season ends.
“I am very proud of my crews and the other Teller agencies that allowed us to combat the High Park fire and produce such a positive outcome for our residents impacted,” Teague said. “To have a fire of that size in these conditions it is pretty miraculous we were able to stop the advancement and not lose any homes. Our BLM, state and federal partners came in and protected not only the rest of Teller county but possible a much larger region. I like to show my crews an outline of the Cameron Peak fire overlaid on a map of our region. If we lose a fire and it grows to be the size of Cameron Peak then most of Teller all the way to Colorado Springs is affected directly.”
Teague did say though that he will be helping the OEM prepare for other emergencies other than wildfires. “Large weather events, active shooters, hazardous materials and pandemics are just a few examples of issues I must address in my new role,” Teague explained.