Already awake at 3:30am from the oppressive winds that seemed to just get stronger, it was hard for me to escape the feeling that the railroad had finally come to Beulah. Surely that unrelenting roar is the sound of freight trains barreling through the valley. My husband Steve, also unable to sleep, abruptly decides to go outside to check on things, but immediately runs back in shouting these dreaded words, “There’s a fire on Pine Drive!” A flush of energy charges through me like an electrical current as I peer out the window and take in the large orange glow that lights up the west side of Sugarloaf Mountain. Barely breathing, I call 9-1-1. The operator shares that they had just received a call and help is on the way. Adrenaline triggers my “fight or flight response” and yet I walk in circles, my mind racing as fast as those trains.
With a lump in my throat, I rush towards the fire to photograph the scene in my role as the BFPAD department photographer. After reaching out to a few neighbors, I start shooting with a front row seat to a fight with a ferocious and otherworldly beast. Radio in hand, Chief Ware commands his team from Pine Drive. All hands flank two fully-involved burning cabins and the densely pine-filled hillside. The entire horrific scene is surreal.
Curiously, once I begin to see the actions of the firefighters my racing heart slows. There is no panic in their faces, only a confidence in their action. I know I am watching our Beulah firefighters at their best. Everyone knows what is at stake. As more and more personnel and trucks show up, I witness highly trained men and women seamlessly working together. Soon thereafter, mutual aid from Pueblo County arrives bringing the total number of firefighters to 45. In addition, neighbor to the west Karl Potestio works on overhaul, extinguishing fires outside of the main fire.
Miraculously, the fire ebbs instead of rages. An overwhelming sense of gratitude sweeps over me for our firefighters and their selfless commitment, training, and experience. My sense of astonishment mixes with relief, and I ponder Beulah’s angels who conspired to keep us all safe.
Each and every day–24/7–Beulah Fire and Ambulance is on call for our community, capable of managing all types of emergencies. Within a ten day period of the April 12 fire, BFPAD took part in five county-wide Strike Team activations!
by BFPAD Chief Bryan Ware
On the morning of Tuesday, April 12 at 0345 Beulah Fire was dispatched on a reported structure fire. The first arriving unit pulled onto scene at 0350 and found two fully involved structures. Fire had spread to the surrounding wildland vegetation and was creeping towards the west with rapid growth to the south and east of the main fire. By reverse 9-1-1, an immediate evacuation order was given for six homes in imminent danger. Thankfully no additional evacuation orders would be needed. Evacuation orders are never taken lightly, with a multitude of factors that are heavily considered before such an order is given.
Pueblo County Task Force was requested by arriving command staff which activates Pueblo West Fire, Rye Fire, Pueblo County Sheriff’s ESB Fire, Pueblo City Fire, and AMR to respond with predetermined apparatus. Crews were facing large volumes of fire coming from the two structures as well as heavy wind activity with gusts up to 60 mph from the west.
Beulah’s first engine arrived on scene and started a very aggressive attack on structure one as well as the western side of the wildland fire, with the second arriving engine engaging structure two and the eastern wildland fire. Next in crews began fully engaging the wildland portion of the fire targeting the most aggressive eastern and southern fronts. Additional units were then placed on a roaming patrol to watch for spot fires away from the main fire due to the erratic wind conditions. By 0600 the fires were knocked down enough that the evacuation orders were lifted, and residents were allowed to return to their homes. Crews continued to overhaul and extinguish hot spots on the fire until around 1130 Tuesday morning. Due to the extensive damage sustained in the first structure the exact cause of the fire could not be definitively determined. Evidence was obtained that pointed towards an interior electrical panel as the suspected origin of the fire.
Living in a wildland urban interface, firefighters face adverse conditions due to the heavy timber and brush loads often found around homes throughout our District. In this incident, the second home became involved due to fire escaping the first structure and becoming a wildland fire due to overgrowth and minimal mitigation efforts around the structures. It is imperative that residents mitigate at least 20 feet in all directions around their structures to keep fire growth to a minimum when a fire does occur. Contact the District at (719) 485-2367 to schedule a mitigation inspection. v