Fire response

Sunday’s severe thunderstorms brought 350-400 lightning strikes and an unbelievable 22 fires to Pagosa Country.
We owe a great debt to our firefighters, first responders, law enforcement, dispatch staff and everyone who has played a part in managing, containing and fighting the multiple fires that erupted as a result. We know the multiple fires and your jobs are physically demanding, dangerous, extreme and stressful. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.
We listened with concern as multiple fire and smoke calls were paged out on the scanner on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. From one end of the county to the other, the 9-1-1 calls poured in for smoke and fire. Those calls to 9-1-1 were also mixed with calls for accidents and support for EMS.
We don’t know how the team at dispatch could keep all of the calls and responding agencies organized, but somehow they did.
Pagosa Fire Protection District, Archuleta County Emergency Management, U.S. Forest Service personnel and Southern Ute agencies responded to the calls. At one point, when resources were low, Upper Pine River Fire Protection District and Los Pinos Fire District came to the rescue with mutual aid for our firefighters.
In one incident, a trucker spotted a smoke plume from the overlook area on Wolf Creek Pass. We heard on the scanner that South Fork Fire and Rescue and other teams responded to help.
Federal aid was limited due to the 416 Fire in La Plata County, but they came to the rescue when we needed them the most.
Multiple fires also broke out on the Southern Ute Reservation. According to Southern Ute Tribal Council Affairs Communications Specialist Lindsay Box, the Durango Interagency Type 3 Incident Management Team mobilized to manage the fires, setting up an incident command post and base camp near the fires.
Hearing the voices of our responders by the end of the day on Monday, we knew they were beat, but, much like the Energizer Bunny, they just kept on going and going and going to fire calls.
As we have seen already this year with other Colorado fires, we are fortunate we have not experienced a more disastrous situation. We are honored to have such competent and courageous men and women working to protect us. We are sure we haven’t named everyone, but we thank everyone for their response.
We believe that the Pagosa Springs Town Council did the right thing in canceling our fireworks for this year. As much as we love our fireworks, we love being safe more.
The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners met with Kevin Khung from the U.S. Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District and Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office Director of Emergency Operations Mike Le Roux to discuss implications of moving to Stage 3 fire restrictions. We appreciate that community managers are holding these discussions in an effort to be proactive.
Following that meeting, locals rallied to get the word out to visitors to explain our extreme drought and fire conditions in an effort to keep our public lands open.
A concerted effort is being made to educate visitors and locals about the extreme conditions our community faces.
The Pagosa Springs Visitor Center is seeking volunteers to assist in informing visitors about the significant fire danger we are currently facing. Volunteers are needed to staff information tables, distribute flyers and brochures, and more.
If you are able to help, please contact Pam Hotchkiss at the Pagosa Springs Visitor Center at 585-1200 or by email at visitorcenter@visitpagosasprings.com. Volunteers are needed as soon as possible.
We thank everyone involved for your commitment to the safety of one another, your commitment to public service, your stewardship of the land and for working with our community.
Terri Lynn Oldham House

This story was posted on June 7, 2018.