You don’t often see fire engines with County Sheriff Department logos, so when I found out that an engine from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department from Colorado Springs, Colorado was near where I was going to be in California, I stopped by the local Ranger District Office in Chester to meet them.
Engine 3110 is on an assignment to provide additional firefighting resources in an area that has several very large fires burning, and many of the local engines and crews are tied up on firefighting duties away from their stations. Their engine is a big-ass, all-wheel-drive, 500-gallon Type 3 engine. Captain David Yowell said the HME-made apparatus is designed along the same lines as some of the newer California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) engines.
The crew has been doing some orientation in the area since they arrived on August 2 after a two-day trip, learning some of the road systems in case it dries out from the recent rains and they are dispatched to a fire. When asked what some of the differences are that they have found compared to back home in Colorado, Captain Yowell said many of the roads in the local forests are paved, something they do not see often in the remote areas outside of Colorado Springs.
He said if they were back in El Paso County, they would be helping to move in, restock, and outfit a new building that is their new station.
If at the end of their 14-day assignment, exclusive of travel, there is still a need for the engine in California, the four-person crew will be replaced with another one from El Paso County.
We have been critical of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department’s role in wildland firefighting, but not of their firefighters. Our issues are two:
- Colorado’s mandate that County Sheriffs are in charge of firefighting on non-federal lands. But of course that is not the Sheriff’s call; it’s the hand he was dealt.
- Sheriff Terry Maketa’s very public campaign of criticism against Bob Harvey, the Fire Chief responsible for the first two hours of the initial attack on the Black Forest Fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The media-promoted vendetta the Sheriff launched was unprecedented, in our experience. If the Sheriff has issues with the Fire Chief, there are better ways to handle it than holding press conferences.
In spite of the controversies, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has an assortment of wildland fire resources, including:
- One Type 3 engine (seen above)
- Three Type 6 engines
- One Type 2 Initial Attack hand crew
- One Type 3 Incident Management Team