Video describes effects of Fourmile Canyon fire on fire departments

An eight-minute video appeared on YouTube a few days ago that describes some of the impacts of last September’s Fourmile Canyon fire on the fire departments. The video is a little mysterious in that it appears to be professionally produced and there is no description, other than “©2010 Thia Martin”. It was posted by “thiadena” and the credits say “Production By Thiadena”. A search for that name yields a web site for Thiadena Studio in Boulder, Colorado, and a Linkedin page for Thia Martin “President at Thiadena Studio”.

The fire started on September 6, 2010 and burned 6,200 acres and 169 homes a few miles west of Boulder, Colorado. The fire was devastating to local fire districts within the burned perimeter in several ways, including the facts that the homes of 12 firefighters burned, one fire station and an engine inside burned, and the fire districts will be facing a major reduction in revenues due to the lost homes which will reduce the tax base.

A December 22 article at New West provides more details about the effects of the fire on the local fire districts. Here is an excerpt:

…But for many of those volunteers, the Fourmile Fire continues to be daunting months after the embers have cooled, leaving an aftermath that firefighters continue to battle on many fronts.

“The fire continues every day for everyone involved in the department. It permeates everything you do,” said Brett Haberstick, chief of the Sunshine Fire District, the hardest hit agency in the blaze. “You can’t escape it. There are times when it’s just too much, and you have to take a break, but it’s a job you never leave.”

Haberstick faces severe revenue loss, manpower shortages, and wide-scale rehabilitation and erosion-control needs amid the loss of the departmental records. He and the other chiefs from the affected districts work daily on a complex set of needs from constituents, who individually face a baffling array of insurance, erosion, forest rehabilitation, disposal and building issues complicated by the predictable entry of a few charlatans and thieves.

“It’s been hard, but the district remains strong and continues to provide coverage for our constituents,” Haberstick said. “Sunshine took a big blow, but it wasn’t a knockout punch.”

At least 12 firefighters lost homes in districts that typically have 30 to 40 active members. One of those was veteran firefighter Rod Moraga, an expert in wildfire fuels, mitigation, management and pre-attack planning who founded a nationally prominent wildland fire consulting company, the Anchor Point Group. Now building a new home in Boulder, Moraga said he, and that expertise, will not likely return to the Four Mile Fire District.

“I don’t know how many of us are still really active,” he said, “because even the people who didn’t lose their homes are extremely busy – cutting trees around their home, dealing with insurance claims for smoke damage. …

“I had to completely remove myself from that (the volunteer department),” Moraga said. “Every single day I am dealing with e-mail or phone calls from the insurance people, the county, getting debris removed, getting my house (remains) scraped. There just isn’t enough time.”

And for the fire chiefs for the affected districts – Sunshine, Four Mile and Gold Hill took the brunt of home loss, though Sugarloaf was involved to a lesser extent – it will be some time before they are out of the woods, perhaps even another two years, said Allen Owen, the Boulder District…

More information about the Fourmile Canyon fire:

Wildfire Today coverage of the Fourmile Canyon fire.

Map of the Fourmile Canyon fire (after the second day of the fire).

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Video describes effects of Fourmile Canyon fire on fire departments”

  1. Beautiful video. A palpable tragedy for those involved. A wonderful celebration by the community of the people who defend them and their property. Volunteer FDs do incredible work with very limited resources including manpower. They rarely get the credit they deserve.

    One criticism: Mountain residents first line of defense isn’t the firefighters who protect them. The first line of defense are the residents themselves. They make the decision on where they will live and how they will protect their property. They decide whether or not to invest in mitigation or some other priority in their lives. Fire mitigation is a particularly hard sell to mountain residents especially if they have to pay for it, rather than some government program. After all, they live in the mountains for very specific reasons. It will be a little easier for people to make the decision to mitigate after this fire. The window won’t be open very long though as time passes and thoughts turn to other priorities in life.

    I wish Sunshine and the other departments involved success in dealing with the huge impacts of this fire.


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