Colorado Springs FD protects a structure on the Black Forest Fire

Yesterday we posted two videos produced by the Department of Defense showing a wildland firefighter’s view from his helmet camera while fighting the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, and another that featured the military’s participation in the firefighting effort on the Fire.

Now we have another, this time produced by the Colorado Springs Fire Department which gives the viewer a close-up look at how one of their engine crews protected a residence as the fire approached. The five-minute video summarizes what the crew did over a two-hour period to keep the house from burning, which was made more difficult by a ring of mulch the homeowner had carefully placed around the house. If you have never fought a wildland fire or been engaged in structure protection as a fire spread toward the building, you will be impressed by what it can look like from a firefighter’s point of view.

Congratulations to the Colorado Springs Fire Department for putting this video together.

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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.

14 thoughts on “Colorado Springs FD protects a structure on the Black Forest Fire”

  1. WOW! What ever happened to perimeter control? The tactics displayed here go a long way to explain why there has been so many structures destroyed in CO this year and last. The DIVS should be replaced and get someone in there that will start putting some hose on the ground. Start building line (engines, crews, dozers, airtankers, copters) and PUT THE FIRE OUT! No wonder they have a problem. Quit standing around and get after it. To show this crew like this is to put a black eye on every wildland firefighter out there. This is “Structure Protection” at it’s worst. Letting the fire come to you like this with this fire behavior? Embarrassing.

  2. Anchor up and get going with a pincer or envelopment strategy. right from that house. Also noticed they left the house to fend for itself. Wonder how many have burned down after the fire front passed. Use the Type 3 (California sized type 3) for put the fire out and move in the other rigs behind to patrol and mop up around the houses. I saw some on the news that looked like they were far from a fire front burning away. Probably related?

  3. Whew! Very harsh words from an armchair Incident Commander seeing a soda straw view of one engine crew and then making assumptions about the overall strategy and tactics for the entire fire.

  4. It would appear that structure protection is possible and successful IF there are enough crews available. In a fire that has a large flame front, enough such resources may not exist. I am curious as to what other methods of suppression and containment might then be employed, to best utilize the resources at hand.

  5. CA Firefighter – based on your comments, you clearly don’t understand the water situation and terrain in Black Forest. These are homes on large lots (2+ acres). Not all these neighborhoods have hydrants or water distribution systems that responders can just hook up to and have an infinite supply of water.

    On the video, you’ll notice the voice over talking about conserving water — that is why. Once the truck goes empty, they have to leave the incident to re-supply. Not sure how long that takes, but there is likely at least 20 mins of travel time alone involved.

    Additionally, they purposely want the fire to consume the fuel in the area to minimize threat of the fire re-igniting as they don’t have resources to cover ever structure.

    Keep in mind, there are ~750 firefighters working two shifts on a fire that is covering ~16,000 acres in terrain that is not easily accessible. Do the math yourself — the firefighters are in the unenviable position of having to decide which structures they can protect and which ones they can’t. The fact that this particular homeowner did a good job of fire mitigation themselves, more than likely made them a good candidate for structure protection. Allowing the fire to consume the fuel near the structure is a strategy that conserves their water supply and minimizes the risk they need to return and can focus on other elements of the fire.

    Regarding your comment on the cause of structure loss in the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, I suggest you do further research before making inaccurate comments. The primary losses with the Waldo Canyon fire were a direct result of weather to the west of the fire creating very significants winds to the east pushing the fire very, very rapidly across fire lines, *down* a canyon and into Mountain Shadows neighborhood. Very tragic, but not a result of firefighters not doing their jobs. Just the opposite, as many fire crews headed into Mountain Shadows in the middle of the inferno to protect structures and evacuate people.

    In the case of the Black Forest fire, its a large, heavily forested area that has suffered severe drought for many years. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if a fire started on a dry (2% RH on Tuesday), hot (90F+) day with high winds (25mph sustained, gusts to 40 mph) that it was going to be a big problem for folks in the area.

    Both fires are very tragic with loss of life and property. But, its part of life in Colorado. I’ve lived here 15 years and have personally experienced several big fires (and many little ones) in that time. The crews here are top notch – myself and the other residents have tremendous trust in them to do their jobs and do them at a high-level.

    As with many things, its easy to question strategy and actions with when you only have partial knowledge/information of the situation and you make broad assumptions (which often prove incorrect). Its only with a more complete understanding of facts and data that strategies & actions executed by professionals are fully understood. When you find yourself facing those situations in the future, I strongly recommend you ask questions first before asserting that professionals like the ones that have worked Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires are the reason so many structures have been lost.

  6. Seems like Colorado Springs FD are trying to do some serious PR since the last time they smootched the pooch (aka messed up)(last year or two years ago??) That radio strap on the nozzle man is fine for structural firefighting but NO good for the movements needed for wildland firefighting. I always find it interesting to watch structural firefighters fight wildland fires.
    Seems like the home owner did a decent job creating a defensible space around the residence. Almost didn’t even need the structural protection crew there.

  7. Ca firefighter, it’s pretty easy to Monday morning quarterback from a few minute video clip. There may be different ways or better ways to accomplish a task but looking in we don’t know the reasons they are using that strategy. I’ve traveled the country fighting fire and strategies used in one location would be laughable in others. Ever seen handcrews in pocosin fuels? Or cl215’s with no surface water for hundreds of miles. I’m not there, you’re not there so it’s hard to judge.

  8. Any chance we can take CA out of his name? I’d rather not be associated with loudness that ruins our image in CA. It’s funny cause there is no name calling. He must be an avid reader of your blog Bill.

  9. Thanks Colorado Springs F.D. for sharing the video. Some family got to go home because of your efforts. J.R. look at the weather and fuel state, impossible
    to accomplish very much with Mother Nature literally breathing down your throat.
    One engine company one structure, as the fire approaches pay attention also to the lee side(opposite side of the fire front) of the structure. In very strong winds if the fire gets (in spite of your efforts) established in the structure your protecting, disengage and try to protect a structure that isn’t involved. KEEP MOBILE.

  10. I praise the fire fighters……BUT NOT THE SUPERVISORS….THEY ARE SCREWING UP!!!!!! I realize fire fighting is not an easy task, but based upon results…..we will lose close to 1000 homes in the last year. If results are how you measure good fire protection……a few heads need to roll.

  11. Billy Bob, many of those homes you mention have been in high risk WUI areas with marginal at best clearing of defensible space. That’s a recipe for calamity. People want the trees around their home, but don’t consider the consequences of fire getting into the trees.

  12. I am sure a lot of work was done after the fires last year in the area, but I can assure you that I would have been cutting down trees like a beaver! Heck, I live in broken grass country but have been using some fire wise operations.

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