LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Fire managers say first responders to the High Park Fire moved as quickly as they could once they learned of the fire.
To some people the response might not have seemed quick enough. Authorities pointed out that it’s not an urban-type area where residents can call 911 and get a fire engine in a matter of minutes. It’s an entirely different situation.
“I know from the citizens’ standpoint it can be confusing because you don’t necessarily see the boots on the ground and the personnel or even the single-engine air tanker in the air depending on what your vantage point is,” Nick Christensen with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said.
Christensen said the first call came in about the lightning-triggered fire at 6 a.m. on Saturday and someone was quickly dispatched.
– 6 a.m. Got call and dispatched worker
– 6:49 a.m. a Larimer County law enforcement official made the emergency correspondence: “I’m going to go up there and see if I can get a location on this smoke report, additionally would you also page Rist Canyon?”
– 7:15 a.m. Crews were in the area searching for the smoke.
– 8 a.m. An air tanker was ordered, but it wasn’t available until after 9 a.m.
What started as a few lightning-sparked puffs of smoke quickly became one of the largest wildfires the state and Gov. John Hickenlooper had ever seen.
“In heavily-forested land they had trucks on there within an hour when it was spotted, so that’s pretty fast,” Hickenlooper said.
Authorities said the reason the air tanker wasn’t readily available is because pilots usually don’t start their day really early so they can fly later when the fire usually peaks.
“I feel there’s too much red tape always,” said Rist Canyon resident Lou DeAngelis. “And when there’s a fire there should be a response. We pay for it.”
DeAngelis says what he and some of his neighbors want is to be allowed into the burn area to protect their homes themselves.
More help is on the way. After touring the fire zone, Hickenlooper received a call from President Obama Tuesday afternoon.
“That was the President of the United States of America,” Hickenlooper told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger after getting off the phone. “I thanked him. I think what the Forest Service has done and what FEMA has done — they’ve bent over backwards and it’s a model of how a county can coordinate with all their volunteer organizations and their work with the state. The state works with the county and the volunteers and now the federal government.”
Even with only a small amount of containment, fire officials say they have a pretty good idea how they want to move forward fighting the fire.
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