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Homeland Security

Fort Carson crews fight fires

June 9, 2011

By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Fire crews from battled two wild land fires at Fort Carson’s Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site Wednesday.

The Bear Springs and Callie Marie fires were discovered Tuesday and burned more than 28,000 acres as of Wednesday morning. The fires are believed to be the result of lightning strikes, which occurred Monday evening.

“With dry lightning, it strikes and takes a while before it warms up a tree enough to start a fire,” said Chief Glen Silloway, Fort Carson Fire and Emergency Services.

Fourteen engine companies, hand crews, heavy and single-engine air tankers and one helicopter battled the blazes. Additional crews from the U.S. Forest Service and AmeriCorps also helped.

As of Wednesday morning, no containment estimates were available.

These fires come just days after fire crews from Fort Carson battled two fires near Trinidad May 28 to June 3, partnering with other fire departments to help contain the Bear and Purgatoire fires.

“As of (Monday), those fires are 100 percent contained,” Silloway said. “At the high point, we had 12 personnel and four engines helping on the initial attack with local and county fire departments.”

Personnel from Fort Carson and Piñon Canyon fire stations joined 300 firefighters from Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah and Iowa to fight the blazes.

“We came down Saturday for an initial attack on the Bear Fire,” said Peter Wolf, fire training captain. “We got moved for the primary initial attack on the Purgatoire Fire.”

Wolf said Fort Carson also provided brush and water tender trucks to help aid hand crews.

The Bear Fire, which was started by lightning, burned 6,885 acres along the Colorado and New Mexico border near Horseshoe Mesa.

The Purgatoire Fire burned 6,140 acres east of Trinidad. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Silloway said Fort Carson has a mutual aid agreement with 36 agencies " spanning six counties " near the Mountain Post.

“If they need help, we help,” he said. “If we need help, they help.”

Silloway said Fort Carson fire crews respond to four or five mutual aid requests each week.

“We respond to car accidents, fires and medical emergencies,” Silloway said. “We have a very good working relationship with the community.”

Officials at the Fort Carson fire department are predicting a busy fire season.

“It’s been so dry,” said Deputy Chief Ken Rhault. “We need some good rains.”

“In this area, our fire season is almost year round,” said Silloway, who encouraged community members to heed fire restrictions and to notify authorities as soon as possible if a fire starts.

Silloway said Fort Carson has more than 100 firefighters on staff and personnel from Directorate of Public Works and Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security assist in wild land fires.

In addition to helping in emergency situations, Wolf said fire crews from Fort Carson often help train community firefighters.

“We’ve never turned down anybody for assistance,” he said. “The community can always call on us to provide support or expertise.”

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