West Fork Complex firefighters briefed on Arizona tragedy


West Fork Complex firefighters were briefed early this morning by Incident Commander Pete Blume and Deputy IC Todd Pechota regarding the sad news out of Arizona.

A two-hour standdown was planned this morning along with a moment of silence for the 19 firefighters of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew who lost their lives.   Incident personnel were given several options to meet their emotional needs.  A Critical Incident Stress Management team is available to those needing additional assistance.

“It is with a heavy heart that we continue our operations today on the West Fork Complex.  The emergency response community mourns the loss of the 19 firefighters that perished in the Yarnell Fire in Arizona,” stated IC Blume.

The Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team and firefighters working the West Fork Complex extend their deepest condolences to those affected by the tragic events of the Yarnell Fire in Arizona.  They are keeping the firefighters who died, those that continue to work on incidents, and the families of all firefighters in their thoughts.

Operations on the West Fork Complex will continue as planned.  Morning briefing for crews going to the fireline was moved to 9 a.m. in order to give them some time to process yesterday’s events.  Officials believe the best tribute they can give at this time is to continue to focus efforts on maintaining public and firefighter safety in honor of those who have fallen.

As of this morning, July 1, the West Fork Complex Fire is 4 percent contained.

The complex area is measured at 93,776 acres (Windy Pass 1,417 acres, Papoose 35,842 acres, West Fork 56,517 acres) with 1,508 personnel working the three fires.

Structure protection is still in place for Wolf Creek Ski Area, Born’s Lake Cabins, and Bruce Spruce Resort, which is still open, and hose lays and sprinkler systems are in place and operational in the West Fork Campground that is also open. Crews started to backhaul the excess firefighting equipment at Born’s Lake, Bruce Spruce and Wolf Creek. Activity on the Windy Pass Fire yesterday was minimal.  A resource advisor was on the fireline yesterday to assess the landscape and to begin developing a rehabilitation plan.

The West Fork Spike Camp that had been established to support the firefighting activities will be closed down today.  All personnel and equipment will be transferred to the Incident Base at Stevens Airfield in Pagosa Springs.  Be cautious with the increased traffic, especially as visitors start to arrive for the Fourth of July festivities.

Scattered thunderstorms are expected to develop today with moderate to heavy rainfall possible and associated gusty winds.  A potential for ash flow and mudslides still exists, as well as potential for tree blow down from high winds and helicopter activity. Starting Tuesday, each day of the week is expected to become warmer and drier, with a chance of isolated thunderstorms.

Smoke monitors are in place in Pagosa Springs, Freemon’s Ranch, and Creede.   The monitors are identified as #78 (Creede), #69 (Freemon’s Ranch) and #65 (Pagosa Springs) and can be accessed through the map located at www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/smoke.pl. Times displayed are in GMT, so subtract six hours to get local time (MDT).  For the official Colorado Smoke Outlook, visit www.colorado.gov/airquality/colo_advisory.aspxandhttp://www.colorado.gov/airquality/wildfire.aspxfor further health advisory information.

Use caution when traveling along U.S. 160 and Colo. 149.  Heavy fire traffic can be expected along the highways and within the communities of South Fork, Creede and Del Norte.  Do not stop along the roads to take pictures of the fire or firefighters as doing so could impede fire operations.