Firefighter brings respect for area’s drastic conditions
DE BEQUE — Fresh off helping fight the destructive High Park Fire near Fort Collins, Montana firefighter Doug Knight arrived here Friday hoping to protect property, but also recognizing the need for crews to respect Colorado’s extreme fire conditions.
With vegetation super-dry and primed to burn, “putting anybody out in front of that stuff is not a good idea at all,” Knight said. “You can always replace a home, but replacing us is another story.”
If Knight needed any further reminder of that, it came when his crew stopped for lunch Friday in Glenwood Springs. There, they could stare out at Storm King Mountain, where 14 firefighters died in a wildfire in 1994.
“We were definitely thinking a lot about that,” Knight said.
Knight, who lives in Missoula, works seasonally on an engine crew for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. He’s fought wildfires since 2004 and said he’s seen an increase in the size of fires, their extreme nature and the duration of fire seasons.
He helped do structure protection work during the High Park Fire, and while he didn’t see a lot of houses burned, it was distressing to hear about such losses occurring.
An upside for High Park Fire firefighters was getting to meet Denver Broncos players and cheerleaders.
On Friday, President Barack Obama visited firefighters in Colorado Springs. If he’d had a choice between meeting Obama, the Broncos or the cheerleaders, Knight said he’d probably pick the cheerleaders, “but my fiancée doesn’t want to hear that.”
He met his fiancée, Jennifer Smith, on a fire and she’s now helping fight one near Leadville.
Knight said he got a good look at the Pine Ridge Fire during the drive into town. While he admitted to a certain nervousness about the task at hand, he added that he’s “definitely looking forward to it.”