CONIFER, Colo. (KDVR) — John Mandl normally wears the same outfit to work every day: Station pants and station boots donning the Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District logo.
Tuesday’s attire was a bit different.
“Today, I came from the waist down in my wildland pants, wildland boots,” he said. “It’s one of those days where if the call drops, I throw on my shirt, jump in the rig, and off we go.”
Mandl said the decision was an easy one after seeing a red flag warning in place for a portion of his district and high winds in the forecast.
After 23 years as a firefighter, Mandl said these conditions give him the most anxiety.
“It definitely puts me on high alert for readiness,” he said. “It’s like, oh boy, here we go. You never know what to expect.”
Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District and Elk Creek Fire Protection District are responsible for the U.S. Route 285 corridor, from Morrison all the way into Park County.
The rolling hills are staffed mostly with volunteer firefighters, who received an email Tuesday morning telling them to be on standby.
“Being a volunteer staff, we don’t have the staff lingering at the station ready to deploy at a moment’s notice,” Mandl said. “So this morning, one of the first things I did was send out an email saying, ‘Hey, it’s a red flag day today, make sure your gear is ready to go.”
History shows high winds can mean fire danger
Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Kelleigh McConnaugey said the Marshall Fire proved just how dangerous high winds can be. Firefighters were unable to stop advancing flames and instead focused on getting people out of the line of fire.
“Wind drives fire, so it kind of just puts me at a heightened, prepared level,” McConnaugey said.
McConnaugey said it’s also a reminder for people to perform mitigation work regardless of whether they call the foothills or plains home.
“A lot of times, what we see with fires are ember showers, and embers are driven by wind, so if you mitigate your property, you are increasing the probability of survival of your home just by doing those things,” McConnaugey said.