Firefighters prepare for summer |

Firefighters prepare for summer

KEYSTONE – As the firefighters grappled with high-pressure hoses and let loose geysers of water over the parking lot, snow belted out of the Snake River basin uphill.

One might think the precipitation would give firefighters pause in training for wildfire season. One would be wrong.

Firefighters from Snake River Fire Protection District, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and Copper Mountain Fire Department converged at Snake River’s Keystone station Saturday to begin training for the wildfire season.

Each year, new firefighters are trained in the complexities of operating various types of pump trucks and manning hoses, along with classroom sessions on fire management. Pump truck drivers must also maneuver cone-courses and re-familiarize themselves with the vehicles. Firefighters complete physical fitness tests – typically a 45-minute run with a 45-pound pack – as part of “red card” certification, the national standard for wildland firefighters.

Snake River Fire public information officer David Williams said, while snow may still be on the ground in Summit County, fire danger is heating up in other parts of the state.

“We’ve been pretty fortunate this winter,” Williams said Saturday, holding his palm out for the falling snow. “But we have to prepared to assist other agencies where fire danger is already growing.”

Firefighters begin seriously watching weather patterns this month. Fire officials begin making decisions about fire danger and fire bans when the dryer months of May and June arrive.

Before the training began Saturday afternoon, Williams and other firefighters took a snow tour in the Montezuma area. Williams said it was comforting that more than a foot of snow was still on the ground in Summit County’s highest town. Standing in the parking lot next to the fire station in Keystone, however, Williams pointed out how the south-facing slopes have lost their snow cover.

“It could keep snowing like this,” Williams said. “Or it could all end up looking like that pretty quick.”

And even if the snow continues through April, it could be a mixed blessing. Snake River Fire Capt. Chris Nelson said he worries that grasses and other plants will voraciously suck up the moisture, growing to taller heights than last summer, and then the precipitation will stop.

“Then we’ll have lots of tall, dry grasses and plants – all fuel and no rain,” Nelson said.

Nelson said training was progressing well and Summit County would be in good hands this summer.

The fire departments will continue preparing for wildland fire season and also will embark on educational campaigns. Some fire officials have already made presentations to various groups such as the Summit County Builders Association, and more presentations are scheduled for events such as lawn and garden shows.

For more information about fire protection for homeowners, contact Summit County Wildland Fire Mitigation Officer Patti Maguire at (970) 513-4237.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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