BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) – The blizzard of 2021 was not kind to those without four-wheel drive, leaving many people stranded on the highways Sunday night and Monday morning. That gave Brighton Police officers a challenge they were ready to accept.

“It was something I’ll never forget,” recalled Officer Daniel Barkus with the Brighton Police department.

READ MORE: 11 African Lions Test Positive For COVID At Denver Zoo

(credit: Brighton)

Barkus drove the department’s new snowcat for the very first time in blizzard conditions to rescue people stuck in feet of snow along Interstate 76 Sunday night.

At one point, Barkus said he had 12 people riding in the trailer of the caterpillar.

He said the night started when he and other officers set out to rescue four men trying to get to Denver International Airport from Fort Morgan.

“When we pulled up on them, you could almost barely see the top of their car because the snow drifts were so high,” Barkus said. “So we’re able to get out there and get them into a safe place and continue on our way, and it kind of turned into more of a long adventure for them, because then that led to another pickup, and to another pickup, and then to a call from Commerce City, and the fire department, and going out to Highway 96 and E-470, and getting someone who was stranded way way out there, east of the highway, and that resulted in picking up people before we even got to that guy.”

(credit: CBS)

READ MORE: Judge Expected To Rule On Douglas County Schools Mask Lawsuit On Tuesday

Barkus said everyone was laughing and smiling by the time they all got out of the trailer.

“And then after the adventure of getting back into Brighton, we were helping the people out, and I’m apologizing for this rough ride, and they’re coming out laughing and smiling, and saying that it was a fun experience and an adventure,” Barkus said. “It was really rewarding to hear that.”

Since Sunday morning, Brighton Police have responded to more than 60 calls for help from stranded motorists. Using the snowcat, Brighton Police were also able to assist Commerce City Police and South Adams Fire with additional rescues in their districts.

Patrol Commander Matt Domenico says the snowcat and a HUM-V, that was also used for rescues Sunday, were obtained through a program that gives excess military equipment to police departments, and he’s glad they went to good use.

“We were able to use asset forfeiture funds to refurbish the vehicles, mark them appropriately as rescue vehicles,” Domenico explained. “So we were able to provide this service for the our community and surrounding communities, quite frankly, and little to no cost to taxpayers.”

(credit: CBS)

Domenico said the Brighton community returned the favor, when citizens helped several officers who were having trouble in the snow.

MORE NEWS: Many Colorado Pharmacies Slammed With Demand As COVID Booster Eligibility Widens

“We had officers get stuck in some of their vehicles throughout and add citizen stop to help them get out and it just goes, it just goes to show what a supportive community Brighton is,” Domenico said.

Kati Weis