NFPD saves 12 homes
On Wednesday, June 11, Nederland Fire Protection District Firefighters Ryan Roberts and David Femmer were called to assist in the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs. At the time the fire was raging out of control and would eventually destroy 483 homes, force 40,000 residents to evacuate, burn 14,280 acres and claim the lives of two people. As of Monday, June 17, the fire cost $5.555 million to fight, and 1,130 firefighters were still on the line.
The two Nederland firefighters became part of a Boulder County Strike Team, which means they were in on the initial attack, going after the burning buildings. Captain Ryan Roberts said that when they arrived, the fire was exhibiting erratic behavior. “There were 100-foot flame fronts and you don’t approach those, but our engine, 5602, saved a dozen houses and one dog.”
The dog sitter had been unable to return to the house that Roberts and Femmer had been assigned to protect. The firefighters beat on the door to alert anyone inside, and they heard a dog bark. They had to break down the door, but the dog was ready to go. He was loaded into the engine and then the crew was forced to run.
“There was zero visibility, breathing was difficult and we were surrounded by hot, dry fire. It was our job to deploy hose lines and stop the fire from advancing.”
The Nederland firefighters were there for four days, with about five hours of sleep a night. They huddled in tents wherever they could find a space. At one point they had to cut the hose lines and run.
It was four days of combined misery and pride in the job they were doing. Roberts said there were many mountain people on the assignment. He was happy to see Fourmile, Lefthand and Sugarloaf districts there.
Roberts said they took orders and did the work. “I didn’t know how bad it was until I talked to my wife. We just focused on the task and had no idea what was going on beyond that.”
Roberts said the homes that had been fire mitigated were easily saved and those that hadn’t been, “There was nothing we could do.”
The men returned to Station I in Nederland on Saturday and prepared their engine to be ready for work when called again.
NFPD Chief Rick Dirr was briefed on the event. He said, “It is a privilege to serve other communities. Unfortunately, there will be a time when they will be serving us under similar circumstances.”