The calm after the storm was not so calm for the Greeley firefighters as they struggled to avoid further home losses in hot spots after the Marshall fire ravaged Boulder County.
The Marshall Fire destroyed 991 structures and damaged 127 buildings on December 30. That same day, the Greeley Fire Department received a statewide surge request that evening with orders to respond to Boulder County at 6 a.m. the next day, according to Battalion Commander Ben Ojinaga. .
The department deployed a Type 1 engine, a brush truck and a command vehicle with nine people, including two battalion commanders, to help with the Marshall fire.
Upon arrival, Greeley Fire Department personnel and resources were assigned to a geographic area or division in Louisville between Cherryville Road and McCaslin Road adjacent to South Boulder Road in unincorporated Boulder County.
Numerous crews from across the state were called in to help fight the blaze, primarily to relieve the first crews to respond and fight the blaze, Ojinaga said.
âFrom the firefighter level, it was good to be able to relieve the initial forces that were there and faced the first fire in this fire,â Ojinaga said.
The Marshall fire resulted in a unique landscape of damage due to the wind-blown disaster. Ojinaga witnessed completely devastated neighborhoods, as well as areas where one person’s house was completely set on fire, but the house next door was still standing.
âIt followed the path of the wind,â Ojinaga said. âAnd unfortunately, some houses were directly in the wind’s path in the fire. Then there were houses which were not in the path of the wind and which were not affected at all.
Due to their status, Ojinaga and Battalion Chief Chris Ellmer were tasked with overseeing the entire division, which included around 12 agency fire trucks from across the state.
During their 3-hour deployment, teams tended to unburned homes to “clean up” and ensure the area was no longer losing structures to hot spots. The division also dealt with structures that had reignited.
âWe just distributed the resources,â he said. “There were several hundred houses there, and we went from house to house to find the ones that hadn’t burned down and we made sure there were no additional threats so that we didn’t lose any more. of houses. “
Fire crews on Friday were also able to answer questions from locals who began to return to see if their homes had been lost, which was gratifying for Ojinaga.
Once the weather changed and it started snowing, the threat of fire started to slow down. But the Ojinaga team turned their attention to the next concern among the homes spared by the fire – freezing temperatures.
Fire crews worked to ensure that water, gas and electricity were turned off to prevent further damage and loss to homes not destroyed by the flames.
In addition to Greeley Fire’s efforts, other people and agencies in the Weld County community have also provided assistance to residents of Boulder County as they deal with the lasting legacy of the Marshall Fire.
Jennifer Finch, Weld County Public Information Officer, participated in what she called a “small part” of helping those affected by the disaster. As a member of the National Emergency Service Information Officer group, Finch and others in the organization have joined forces to provide assistance to agencies during crises over the years.
When an email asked the Boulder Joint Information Center for help, Finch volunteered to spend Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons helping relay messages, monitoring social media, responding to questions and to clarify the confusion for county residents.
“It’s gratifying to be able to sit there and say, ‘You know what, I have a skill set that can be used and there are people who need it,” said Finch. “Just to be able to come down and provide some help and aid – and hopefully relief – to tackle a huge task of getting information to people, it’s gratifying.”
Ojinaga has also found his job rewarding in helping those affected by the record-breaking fire. He praised the Colorado community and the fire service community for always coming together to help during a crisis.
âNumber one, it was rewarding to go out and help our neighbors,â Ojinaga said. “But it was good to be able to go and help a neighbor because you know those neighbors would help us if ever a disaster happened in our area.”
Additionally, in response to last week’s fire, the town of Severance this week was accepting non-cash donations of items such as hygiene products, pet supplies, clothing and other merchandise. first need. Due to the overwhelming support from the community, the city had to stop accepting new donations after a short time, according to the Separation Police Department’s Facebook page.
For those who want to help the victims of the Marshall fire, the following places are accepting donations:
âNo matter how small you are, it’s still part of the help and recovery,â Finch said. “I think there are so many people out there who are just trying to step in and find what they can do to help because this is a huge tragedy that they are facing and we are going to face it. for a certain time.”