Residents express concern on fire management at community meetings

Full story: Estes Park Trail-Gazette

Estes Park residents have generally applauded the firefighters' efforts on the Fern Lake Fire, but have questioned the early tactics involved in fighting the fire, leading up to the necessary evacuations ordered early Saturday morning.

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Exactly

Casper, WY

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#1
Dec 4, 2012
 

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Please do not question authority. The koolaid is now on the tables. Please drink deeply of this wonderful beverage.
I wish

Denver, CO

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#2
Dec 5, 2012
 

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Baker would attend the next meeting!!!
Not convinced

Fort Worth, TX

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#3
Dec 5, 2012
 

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Up until this fire, I would have done nothing but applaud RMNP for the proactive way they have managed the forests within the park. However to term their approach to the Fern Lake fire as full suppression from the get go is misleading ... from all appearances, it has been more of a watchful eye approach with little fore thought about what if's. Reading between the lines, it would appear that the park thinks they only have a responsibility within park boundaries and not to the Estes Park community ... a community that not only borders the park, but has supported it in so many ways! It doesn't take a genius to realize that wildfire destruction to the Y camp would spell economic disaster for the town of Estes Park and have a serious financial impact on the park as well. Where I find personal fault with the park on this matter is that it is a well-known fact that we encounter high winds in our region and that those winds shift in all directions. There were two previous opportunities to greatly suppress this fire with air support after October snow dumps. IF this suppression had occurred and been coupled with a fire line at the far end of Moraine Park there is a strong possibility that this current situation could have been entirely avoided and I venture at considerably less cost. If nothing else, I hope park officials take this experience to heart and do some proactive planning to avoid this type of event in the future. Not only as it relates to Estes Park, but Grand Lake as well.

To our brave firefighters, I can only say a hearty thank you! Your commitment and hard work has saved our community!
See

Estes Park, CO

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#4
Dec 5, 2012
 

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this is my problem with all the local community "fire experts". The people who do this for a living have said that they have been fighting this fire since day one. They have explained how the most effective way to fight the fires is on the ground. And yet the local "fire experts" think they know better. You think these people are lying to you? They are also members of this community. You think they aren't going to do what is best for us? You people seriously need to get over yourselves. Quoted from the professional and not the local "experts",all the real firefighting happens on the ground. Boots are on the ground -- and have been since the fire's first flare-up Oct. 9 -- when it is safe to put them there. In areas of steep terrain, with limited ingress and egress, and old timber likely to fall, it is simply unsafe, unwise, unacceptable and unsound economically to place firefighters in certain harm's way, if the fire poses no immediate threat to the community ."

In other words, it was burning in a remote area that was near impossible for crews to safely access and effectively fight the blaze. All you people are pretty quick to judge the actions of others but I didn't see any of you volunteering your time/effort/money to help. Why didn't you get your hiking shoes on and haul in 100 lb packs to help fight the inferno? How about if it was your son that was given the task of hiking into treacherous terrain to fight a fire that isn't directly threatening the public?

I'm also sick and tired of hearing, "well they knew that the winds were going to blow and they didn't do anything about it." Cry me a f**king river. You know what else normally happens in the winter? Oh ya it usually snows. So they decided that it was a better idea to conserve already depleted resources, not risk firefighter lives and allow natural thinning of a dangerously overgrown forest.
Not convinced

Fort Worth, TX

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#5
Dec 5, 2012
 

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See - I think you may misunderstand my intent with my comments. I would NEVER suggest that anyone's life be put at risk. But just because someone in authority tells you something, doesn't make it so. I understand that fire is most effectively fought on the ground, but I also realize that more could have been done to protect the Estes Park community. Note, I talked about air suppression and about building a fire line at the far end of Moraine Park. Neither of these actions would have put fire fighters at risk during October and I have to believe it would have helped. At that point the fire was moving up toward the Tundra along Ute trail. Air suppression was the only safe means to fight it at that juncture and some did occur ...but it was minimal. I get your point about depleted resources, but it is a balance. How depleted would our community be if the Y camp had burned down?

I don't think it is unreasonable to ask could we have done better... what can we learn from this ... as bordering neighbors ... are we a better neighbor if we are proactive or reactive in our approach. Yes it snows in winter, but we are in a drought pattern right now and should we think about fighting this fire differently?
Estes Resident

Estes Park, CO

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#6
Dec 5, 2012
 

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"Not convinced" from Fort Worth is absolutely correct. The Park Service has instituted an entirely new forest fire plan that allows more latitude in terms of how to fight a fire. This allows the Park Service to permit a given fire to burn and use up fuel. While this is a good idea, there has to be a point where a "line in the sand" is drawn for a particular fire on the border with Estes Park. This point should have been identified and defended during the snow fall. Also, it does not appear that "all resources" have been used in this fire, since chemical fire retardant has not been dropped on this fire. The stated reason is that the chemicals can get in the water supply and make the resource less useful for down in the valley. Chemical retardant drops from planes were used extensively in the Ft. Collins and Colorado springs fires of last summer, why have they not been used here to stop the eastern track of the fire?? There are many unanswered questions here that need to be addressed before the next fire. Estes Park residents need to know exactly what they are dealing with in terms of fire protection since we live next to the park and lower valley water supplies.
Agreed

United States

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#7
Dec 5, 2012
 

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Instead of the "yes men" always posting on this forum, there needs to be a little more introspection. Just using what little information the various departments are telling us, it is clear that (A) The park hoped this fire would go out on its own and (B) The park never asked themselves "What happens if this fire is still burning in December?" Because all we've heard is excuses. For example: "We can't get any of the crews mobilized because it's so late in the year." This would have been known in October, that it would be extremely difficult to fight a fire in December, so that should have entered into the decision making process.

This crap about all the planes being out in California is nonsense. If the fire was in West Virginia, are you telling me there are no tankers closer than California, that all of the United States is at the mercy of what is going on in California? Nonsense. If true, we need to rectify it. If not, we need to admit planes could be obtained from elsewhere but somebody didn't want to.

Homeowners at Three Mile Island should not be blamed if they didn't assist in stopping the core meltdown. Similarly, the morons who say "well, why weren't you out fighting the fire if you were so concerned?" are just being silly. The park would not have allowed it. It is simply a non-issue. There are people trained to fight fires, and there are planes would could have been brought in to fight it before it got out of control and everyone freaked out. Next time, my guess is the RMNP Superintendent will decide differently. Hopefully, it will be a different RMNP Superintendent by the end of the year. Because this one is woefully underqualified to fight fires, all he is good at is letting a situation get so far out of control the Level 1s have to step in and spent nearly a half-billion dollars to clean up his mess. For shame.
See

Estes Park, CO

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#8
Dec 6, 2012
 

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Not convinced, I think you make valid points. Its always good to look at a situation and say what could we have done better or what would we do differently next time. However, hindsight is always 20/20. In this case it couldv'e gone both ways. Say we got typical late Oct/november snows, the fire would already be out. We would've saved millions of dollars and the lives risked, we would've thinned an area that is long overdue for thinning. It would've been win win all around. Well that didn't happen. So yes in this case the fire "should've" been put out. However, I honestly feel like they didn't just say screw it whatever happens happens and we'll deal with it when it becomes a problem. That's the attitude I have heard from a lot of people in this town and it bothers me. I understand people being frustrated with being evacuated and wanting answers but some of the hatred spewing towards the park service is just flat out dumb. I just think that these people are professionals and we should let them do their jobs. There are risks and sacrifices that you make to live in a place like this. Being at a higher risk of fire is one of them.

I would agree that a fire line could've been constructed in the moraine park area to keep the fire from spreading, although there is a pretty good break with all the vegetation that has been cleared for the Bear Lake road construction. If you think that they should've just dumped tons of fire retardant than I think you dont know much about what those chemicals do to an environment. Look at the Poudre River and the effects it is seeing right now from all those chemical drops. Would it really have been worth it to subject our environment to those chemicals to fight a fire burning in a wilderness area that wasn't directly threatening the public?

Lets look at the relevant data that was known at the time, and feel free to correct me if you think I'm off base.

1) The fire was burning in a very remote and basically inaccesable area of the park.

2) While airtankers and helicopters get the "glory" and news shots, the real work is done by the crews on the ground who set up fire breaklines, conduct back burn lines and containment lines.

3) It would've been extremely dangerous for fire crews to be sent miles into the backcountry to establish fire lines.

4) The fire was spreading west, moving up the valley and away from the town.

5) The amount of beetle kill/dead and down trees in forest canyon make it basically inaccesible and to get fire crews in/out in a hurry or emergency situation is damn near impossible.

6) Typical winter snows should've happened already and put the fire out.

I think that it's easy to point the finger right now but I think that at the time the park officials made the best decision they could with the information they had at the time.

Since: Jan 11

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#9
Dec 6, 2012
 

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A big part of the problem is the bureaucratic semantics that Mr. Baker and the Type 1 leader continue to use: you can NOT have fire crew safety as your #1 priority AND still claim the fire strategy is 'full suppression'. Talk about mind-numbing nonsense!

But the fact is Mr. Baker actually believes what he says - he is a pure blood NPS developed bureaucrat. And though he (rightfully) won't put firefighters in harm's way, in his mind he believes it when he claims that the Park is "full suppression" mode! And he is confused and confounded that the public don't accept this double-speak as the God's honest truth.

Face it, whomever the NPS puts in as superintendent of RMNP is always going to be a double-speak bureaucratic yes man, beholding to the NPS and federal bureaucracy over the interests of this park and this community. And the scary part is, these people - current and future managers of RMNP - living in their alternative bureaucratic universe - will always be out of touch with reality.
Nice legacy to end your tenure with, Mr. Baker!
Monkey See

Estes Park, CO

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#10
Dec 6, 2012
 
"made the best decision they could..."

This is typical Estes speak. No one can ever be blamed for being either unqualified for the position they hold or incompetent for any position they hold. Coaches can lose all of their games, RMNP decision makers can hold the entire town hostage for a week, boards can shuffle through members every week or every month and everyone gets a gold star for participation.

This is exactly why Estes Park lags behind other communities in Colorado and the west, because no one is ever held accountable for anything. Three people use the shuttles? Just spin it as ridership up 100% from last year and spend a boatload more money on it next year.
Weighing in

United States

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#11
Dec 6, 2012
 
Anyone supporting two months of nothing the park did to us also support the following: The Edsel, Webvan, less then enough lifeboats on the Titanic, Betamax, Laser Discs.

People who try to justify this fiasco are just as useless as the 17 folks now involved in crafting the most "believable" excuses to cover their inaction. Next it will be that they were waiting for gas prices to come below $3 per gallon so that the trucks coming from outside could spend more on sandwiches.
Not convinced

Fort Worth, TX

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#12
Dec 6, 2012
 

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Where do I begin? Today I am encouraged by the thoughtful discussions that are appearing on this forum. It is obvious no matter the opinions voiced or the manner in which they are voiced, that this community cares and cares deeply. As concerned members of our community we need to be talking about this, expressing our feelings, and then as much as possible ridding ourselves of the emotions so we can begin dealing with the facts and see where those facts lead us.

As I read the latest official Fern Lake Fire update I am torn. Strictly on a gut level, I am concerned despite the rising costs involved, of the decision to send resources away when the report also indicates that 750 structures are still threatened. What consideration is being given to the personal toil of these property owner's lives and the cost to rebuild should the worst come to fruition? What will loss of these structures do to the local Estes Park economy? Are the officials on the park side weighing these possibilities in their decision making process? OR conversely do they believe their only responsibility lies within park borders? Is someone on a broader government level looking at the contingency that if the worst were to occur, what are the costs to state and federal government in the form of aid? Is this a consideration in the
decision-making process? If not, then why not? I personally understand the wait and see approach the NPS took initially on the fire, but recognize it was a gamble anticipating winters intervention. Last Friday night that gamble blew up at our communities potential peril and I pray that they are not doing putting us at risk again!

No matter what the answer is to these questions, there are things on the community and personal side of the equation that we can and should take responsibility for; such as mitigating our own properties, insuring our insurance is at proper levels and learning all we can about wildland fire fighting; what is effective and what are the impacts positive and negatively to the environment based upon how the fire is fought. For example, "See" posed a question today regarding fire retardants that made me realize, I am very lacking in knowledge in this arena. I know that fire retardants are biodegradable on land, but damaging to waterways, but that is the extent of my knowledge. Having said that I will counter back to "See" that I have heard that the problems in the Poudre River are not from fire retardant, but the fine silt caused by heavy ash ...but I really do need to research this further.

Now some may ask, why I encourage all of us to understand how fires are fought; shouldn't this be left up to the experts? The fighting of the fires absolutely! But if we want to do the very best we can to hold our officials accountable, support those working the lines and have a meaningful discussion with those gnarly bureaucrats, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we can not only understand their point of view, but offer up workable alternatives to the status quo and I strongly believe alternatives are needed!

We/They can and should do better!

----"Not convinced" in Fort Worth aka long-time summer resident of EP is now changing her moniker to "Call for Action!"
All in

United States

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#13
Dec 6, 2012
 

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We need to form a committee to run "BearsRUs" out of town. If they hadn't distracted the park with their nonbear problem, this fire would have been out before it started.

What is the reward money up to?

What happens to the reward money if it is never rewarded?

Or did "BearR'NTUs" spend it on lotto tickets?
JubeGelBearInEP

Arvada, CO

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#14
Dec 22, 2012
 
Lube up, bear lovers...You are going to ram this proposal home and make the town spend billions on something no one wants or needs...Just leaves less for the greifing home owners...Clap for the firefighters, sifilis for the wifes.

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