WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) — Firefighters who were in neighborhoods responding to the Marshall Fire on Thursday said it was a firestorm like they never expected to see in their careers.
“Conflagration implies, basically, a fire where everything around you is burning,” West Metro Fire Rescue Capt. Dan Wenger said. “We learned about that in the academy and have never seen anything like it.”
According to Wenger, the Marshall Fire is the textbook definition of the term.
He said when his crew was dispatched, they believed they were assisting on a grass fire.
“And it suddenly became very real that this was going to be like something I had never experienced,” he said.
‘Hundreds of homes on fire simultaneously’
Wenger said the moment he personally realized the Marshall Fire was different was when his apparatus pulled into Louisville and saw entire neighborhoods engulfed.
While they are used to being in fire situations, West Metro crews said at times, there was a genuine fear for their safety.
“There was an overwhelming feeling of we need to know at every single moment where we’re going to go and when we’re going to pull the trigger to say that’s enough, we’re getting out,” he said.
He said the concerns stemmed from the shifting winds and the number of structures involved.
“On a day-to-day situation for us, we might face one house that’s on fire and we have eight to 10 apparatus that show up to fight that one house. In this case, we were looking at hundreds of homes on fire simultaneously and we had three engines on our task force,” he said.
Fire crews from across the front range assisted Louisville and Superior. However, Wenger says the fire was simply too large to have a crew on every structure.
“I know it’s got to be hard for the general public. They see so many buildings burning and they’re thinking, ‘Why aren’t they putting them out?'” he said.
West Metro says their teams were focusing on structures and areas where they had the best chance of stopping the fire from spreading.
FOX31 crews captured video of West Metro engaging in a fight against a fully engulfed home on Mulberry Street in Louisville. Their efforts ended up saving the home next door and subsequent homes to the east.
“I think from that standpoint we were successful, which is a hard word to use under such drastic devastation,” Wenger said.
He said in reflecting on what he experienced Thursday night and in the aftermath, it is difficult to find positives. However, he said it was inspiring to witness how fire departments from up and down the Front Range pitched in to help.
“What was amazing to me was seeing how so many different agencies came together with very little notice, came together and just did their part,” Wenger said.