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Best of the best

The driest year on record and the worst forest fire year on record finally came home this past weekend. We had our first forest fire close to any densely populated area at Lake Hill above the Dillon Dam on Saturday.

Fortunately, it was extinguished in short order compared to the fires our neighbors in Park, Garfield and Routt Counties have endured. We are blessed.

Without getting into the technical nature of wildfire fighting, I would like to give credit to everyone involved. The U.S. Forest Service and their slurry bombers. Each of the four local fire districts and their extraordinary firefighters. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office, local law enforcement and Summit County Communications for keeping everything moving in the right direction.

And especially to the Summit County citizens for not causing any fires up to this point. At least none of any major consequence.

The Dillon Ranger District has reported to us that there have been several fires in more remote areas this year. In one instance, they called in smokejumpers to put out a fire in the Gore Range/Eagle’s Nest Wilderness area. Fortunately, firefighters extinguished these quickly and the fires did not eat up many ares. Another testament to good planning and excellent training.

Again, we have had serious smoke this week from the fires in the Flattops north of Glenwood Springs and other fires near Steamboat Springs. The smoke has been so thick that people in Denver have been calling 911 to report heavy smoke and the odor of smoke in their subdivisions in the metro area. It is another blessing we only have to put up with the smoke without the fire.

The amount of hard work that goes into making an effort like this work is mind boggling.

Most firefighters attend training at least one night a week. In addition, there is local training nearly every weekend somewhere in Summit County.

I received a flyer this week for a National Wildfire Training Academy in Alamosa, Colo. I checked the curriculum and it appeared it would take a good part of a year to complete the course. The first class was going to be held in Larimer County near Fort Collins.

That takes dedication. You do all this on your own time, much of it at your own expense. When you are out of the county, you are not working at your regular job. You are taking that hit as well as being away from your family.

All this to protect our community.

Many local departments are moving to having full time paid staff. There are fewer committed, dedication volunteer firefighters. Also, in order to provide the level of service needed, people actually have to live in the firehouse during their shift. It is another one of those growth impacts many of us never consider.

I would hope there would never be another fire in Summit County. I think it would be nice if everyone drove so safely there was never another highway rescue call. I really want it to rain so much the forest becomes too wet to burn. I also know none of these things will happen.

What will happen is a bunch of highly dedicated and well-trained men and women will stand by at the station or at their homes ready to respond. And I know something else that will happen. They will succeed and they will prevail because they are the very best we have.

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.

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