GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Fire and rescue personnel from Aspen to Rifle volunteered to go to the Front Range last week, to help emergency management teams in the Boulder and Lyons area deal with massive flooding and evacuation efforts caused the severe rain that has hammered the region.
And four firefighters from the Colorado River Fire Rescue (CRFR) agency out of Rifle are still there, along with a brush truck and an ambulance.
“It’s amazing how bad it is over there,” said Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson, whose department spared one man, Steve Howard, to lend a hand.
“It’s going to be years before they’re back to normal,” Thompson predicted.
The Carbondale & Rural Volunteer Fire Protection District sent six people over to help out, said Fire Chief Ron Leach, who added, “They’re all back, safe and sound.”
The six — Bill Gavette, Jake Spaulding, Matt Cole, Paul Luttrell, Logan Piccolo and Brandon Deter — worked in the hard-hit Coal Creek area for several days, doing “a number of different chores, including damage assessments, incident management and community recovery.”
All the locals were trained in Swift Water Rescue operations, and as such found themselves waiting for a river-rescue call that never came.
In the meantime, Spaulding explained, they would camp out every night, sometimes at the Boulder County Airport, sometimes at the Lyons fire department, helping out where they were asked to.
“There’s really not a lot of things I could compare it to except for Hurricane Katrina,” said Spaulding, who also went to New Orleans in 2005 to help with clean-up and recovery efforts there.
“It’s something I never thought I’d see happen in Colorado,” he said, noting that the Boulder County area received 17.5 inches in a seven-day period. Average rainfall for a year in that region is 18 inches, he said.
The CRFR personnel still on the recovery effort, according to spokesman Rob Willits, have been mostly doing structure assessment, to determine whether homes are safe enough for re-entry by the homeowners eager to retrieve personal belonging, or must be condemned to demolition because they are too dangerous.
The CRFR personnel worked mostly in Lyons, a small town north of Boulder that was inundated by water from overflowing rivers and drenching rain, Willits said.
He said the crew — Lt. Thad Broman, Rob Cooney, Ryan Glassman and Randy Hill — left for the Front Range on Sept. 13. He was unsure when they might return to Garfield County.