Opinion | Bruce Butler: Thanking our heroic first responders | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Bruce Butler: Thanking our heroic first responders

People ask me how I decide what to write about every other week. There is plenty to write about, but sometimes I am not sure what to focus on until I sit down to type the column. This week, the topic is easy: Thank you to every first responder who helped prevent the Ptarmigan Fire from becoming catastrophic!

Thank you to Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. Thank you to the Silverthorne Police Department. Thank you to Summit Fire & EMS. Thank you to all the police and fire departments who provided mutual aid. Thank you to federal Incident Commander Eric White and the fire crews who came in and performed heroically. Thank you to the aerial crews from Grand Junction, Jeffco and elsewhere around the state. Thank you to the hand crews who have battled difficult conditions on the ground to fortify fire containment in front of our homes and community.

While I was sitting on my sofa Sunday afternoon, watching the Rockies conclude another disappointing season and the Broncos succumb to the Ravens, these dedicated men and women were still fighting remaining hot spots and fortifying western and southern fire lines. Thank you!

For my wife and I, we are very blessed that our home remained just outside the pre-evacuation areas, but we know many who were evacuated and really didn’t know if they were going to have a house to return to. In Summit County, we often say, “It’s not if, but when.” It always seems a little abstract until a fire breaks out so close to home that you can read the serial numbers on the aircraft that have been scrambled to fight the fire. There is a palpable sense of panic for those who have minutes to gather a few essential documents and family mementos before they must hastily abandon years of their lives, and there was an unspoken uneasiness among neighbors who gathered together to watch the fire grow and quietly calculate the risk to their homes and family.

During my tenure on the Silverthorne Town Council, we would periodically discuss potential risks and responses to various threats to our community. The Dillon Dam receives a lot of attention, but the far greater risk to our community is fire. Please do not get complacent about living in town or near fire hydrants. One of my cousins, who grew up in Summit County, lost her family home in a Santa Rosa, California, fire a few years ago. When winds and embers are starting spot fires, fire hydrants and cool Summit County nighttime temperatures are not enough to save your house. However, I am very grateful that temperatures cooled down and rain arrived at just the right time!

Snow will be here before we know it, and the 2021 fire season will come to an end. But please take a few moments to sign up for Summit County Alert to receive critical emergency communications, and take time to review the fire evacuation checklist at FS.USDA.gov or another similar resource. I’m not here to preach, but if you wait until an evacuation is happening, you will forget critical items.

Summit County is a very caring and generous place. It was heartening to see neighbors coming together to offer temporary shelter and to receive calls and text messages of caring and concern. I realize that there are limited firefighting resources across the western United States, and when Summit County receives the best response possible it leaves others elsewhere more vulnerable. My heart goes out to those communities, too.

In closing, I want to say thank you, once again, to all the first responders who attacked the Ptarmigan Fire and who are still working on the fire. It has not been an easy year for firefighters, and the past year and a half have been a very difficult time for police across the country. Please take a few minutes to thank all these brave men and women over the next week, and never take for granted how lucky we are that we can call for help that arrives within minutes at our times of greatest vulnerability, danger and distress.

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