BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Recovery efforts continue in Boulder County less than a month after the Marshall Fire destroyed over 1,000 homes and structures.
As more time passes, we continue to hear the harrowing details of what took place during the Marshall Fire, and the heroic rescue efforts to save lives and property.
West Metro Fire was one of the fire agencies that helped assist on the Marshall Fire.
They just released a video on what it was like on the front lines for three West Metro firefighters in a Louisville neighborhood. You can watch the full video in the player above.
Dispatch: Emergency traffic, we have multiple houses on fire
Radio traffic: I need somebody to respond to an elderly female that’s unable to evacuate and her yard is on fire.
Capt. Brendan Finnegan (West Metro Fire): The Marshall Fire on approach was…you could tell it was going to be a devastating day. Knowing that the winds were howling in the 100 mph range.
Capt. Dan Wenger (West Metro Fire): The first thing I noticed was just the amount of homes that were on fire. It just seemed that everywhere we were going there were homes that were fully involved.
Dispatch: 5337 Marshall a structure is about to be overtaken.
Mike Worcester (West Metro Fire): We got into a neighborhood and there were houses burning up and down the street.
Dispatch: The fire is going to be moving in an eastern direction.
Mike Worcester (West Metro Fire): And this is the situation where one house is burning and the whole thing’s on fire, and because the whole thing’s on fire and the wind’s blowing and then parts of it, and embers, and smoke and flames, and everything are all burning around the neighborhood. And then the next house is on fire. The Marshall Fire moved so fast. We had to determine whether or not we could do anything to the house with the time that we had, which was minutes.
Dispatch: Cherry Vale Command, I have you with five resources at this point. Do you need more help out there?
Capt. Brendan Finnegan (West Metro Fire): Definitely we were met with the most challenging fire environment any of us had ever seen. The worst part, we call it triage. There were homes that were already beyond saving, but we were able to find that line in the sand basically and found a place where we could safely engage, we had a good water supply, and we had enough resources to make a stand on many, many homes with aggressive firefighting and structure protection.
“Nothing but foundation right here.”
“Yeah, three houses in a row.”
“I think we stopped that. I think we’re going to make a good stop at this house.”
“That house would’ve caught for sure.”
“Yeah, we totally saved that house.”
Capt. Dan Wenger (West Metro Fire): My initial thoughts when we pulled in and saw sort of the enormity of the devastation, was where do we fit in? Where do we even start? That was sort of my first thought. Where can we start to engage this fire, but in the safest way possible?
So we have to take a step back, evaluate the whole situation, see what we have going on, what we expect the fire to do. And under the types of wind conditions that we had, that was sort of an unknown, as we saw fire spread from home to home very quickly. And so we had to be careful about where we set up, where we decided to engage the fire. But once we did, we had to make sure that we were able to get our people out quickly if the fire were to spread as fast as we had already seen it spreading.
Dispatch: We want all units to operate in a safe area.
Capt. Brendan Finnegan (West Metro Fire): We were covering an area about a 105 acre footprint. But within that area, there were 21 streets we were patrolling, and roughly around 384 structures, and one school. The resources assigned to me were Brush Engine 9 and Brush 17 from West Metro and Brush 21 from Golden, and Arvada Engine 56.
Radio Traffic: Marshall Command I copy that message. Thanks.
Capt. Brendan Finnegan (West Metro Fire): Just starting with four engines was an astronomical task. But as the command post and divisions started receiving more apparatus, at one point we were up to 11 total engines that we were able to send around that community and find any opportunity for engagement to draw that line in the sand on that next street.
Radio Traffic: Go Ahead.
Mike Worcester (West Metro Fire): Well that first street we set up on, where Brush Engine 9 and Arvada’s type one engine were parked and had secured a water supply, we decided that we were going to try and make our stop at the sidewalk that went between these two houses, and at this house over here. So Arvada had this side of the street and West Metro had this side of the street. And we were successful there.
We had decided that this was where we were going to try and make our stop, that we were going to try and save this house, knowing that this house would likely burn down. And we were successful in that. It took a long time because we had to wait, you know, that house was still going to burn down. And we did what we could to try and control it, but there wasn’t any saving it.
So we were able to save the rest of the neighborhood with only the one end of the street that burned, it’s tragic. It’s still 16, 18 houses that all burned down, but we were in a position, with the resources we needed to be able to say, “we’re going to try and make our stand here.”
Capt. Dan Wenger (West Metro Fire): In these situations, sometimes we can attach to a hydrant and sometimes we can’t. And so our water supplies can be fairly limited. We did identify that a lot of homes had garden hoses in the area, and that was an unlimited water supply for us for quite awhile. It was actually quite effective, especially during the heavy ember storm later in the evening around 8 p.m., 9 p.m. at night, we’re getting a lot of embers falling on homes. We used garden hoses as much as the hoses off our engines.
Capt. Brendan Finnegan (West Metro Fire): We had resources from all over the state that showed up on this. I think every agency working seamlessly well together, engaged in the fight of our life.
Capt. Dan Wenger (West Metro Fire): The common goal was to effect change, was to get in and to try to save and protect as much property and as many lives as we could.
Radio traffic: 416. I’m going to start evacuating this area.
Capt. Brendan Finnegan (West Metro Fire): Unfortunately, we did lose a fair number of structures. But in the grand scheme of things, we saved way more than we lost.
Radio Traffic: I understand that we have fire moving that way, we’re just trying to get folks ahead of it.
Mike Worcester (West Metro Fire): I think that’s the difficult part, is that it’s easy when you’re in that situation, to focus on what you’ve lost. But what I think we have to do is step back and remember the victories that we had, the saves that we were able to make, and to focus on the fact that the devastation for these families and these businesses is almost incomprehensible. But we had a lot of victories too and we were able to stop the fire, not only in our division, but I know throughout there’s a lot of homes and businesses that weren’t lost
West Metro Fire said there were 384 homes in the neighborhood. Of those homes, 322 were saved and 62 were lost.