Carbondale transitions into fire command central

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff
Members of the Juniper Valley Hotshot firefighting crew out of the Rifle Correctional Center line up for grub and prepare to rest for the night at the Red Canyon Fire command center that was set up in Carbondale Tuesday.
John Stroud / |

CARBONDALE — If the Red Canyon Fire has proven anything it’s that it’s “still really dry out there, obviously, the way this one took off,” Carbondale firefighter/paramedic Garrett Kennedy said upon returning from the fire line Tuesday night to the incident command center at the main Carbondale Fire Station.

Kennedy and six other members of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District were working mop-up in an area that had already burned near the top of Red Canyon Road south of Glenwood Springs when the winds kicked up around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“We were just trying to hold the line, and get it knocked down before the winds came,” he said.

When it did, Kennedy said they lost a lot of their ground resources to go work structure protection.

“It started moving pretty good, and the wind was changing, so we really had to be alert to that,” he said. “We lost some ground, but we had a lot of good people up there and got some work done.”

Kennedy and fellow Carbondale firefighters Ron Kroesen, Logan Piccolo, Tom Morelli, Ken Clark and Adam Bugner were among the 60 or so men and women fighting the fire Tuesday as it spread from about 200 acres earlier in the day to around 250 acres by late afternoon.

Also on the ground Tuesday was the Juniper Valley Hotshot crew out of the Rifle Correctional Center.

“It went pretty well, and we made some progress, no help of the wind,” said crew boss Chris Spitznogle as he marched his crew of 20 from the Carbondale Middle School field, which is serving as tent city for the fire crews, to the nearby firehouse.

There, they were treated to a prime rib dinner provided by Big Mama’s Catering.

“It was pretty intense up there,” said crew member Robert Chambers. “We’ve had 26 days fighting fires so far this summer.”

Juniper crew mate Quentin McIntyre has been on seven different fires this summer.

“It started running a little bit on us, but then it laid back down,” he said. “The terrain ain’t too bad, it was pretty flat compared to some of the places we’ve been.”

Paul Minnow, a member of the inter-agency Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team from southern Colorado, was grabbing dinner at the firehouse before heading back out for night shift on the fire line.

“It usually lays down at night, so we don’t see much activity,” he said. “We’re mainly just there to keep some eyes on it in case something does happen, and then we let dispatch know.

American Red Cross volunteer Sharen Kurtz and Rheta Strong were staffing the evacuation center that was set up at nearby Roaring Fork High School late Tuesday afternoon. So far, though, no one from the limited evacuation area had stopped by the center, they said.

“We’re here to provide support, things like water and snacks and any support people might need,” Kurtz said from her station in the auxiliary gym at the school. “And if people come down who don’t have a place to stay we will turn it into a shelter.”

The Red Cross has about two dozen volunteers in the area from Aspen to Rifle to help out during emergencies, including wildfires and house fires.

“We take turns working 12-hour shifts as long as we’re needed,” Kurtz said, adding that they would probably stand down for the night since no one was using the evacuation center.

“But we’re here or on call if someone needs us,” she said.

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