SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.- --
Schriever Fire Department helped battle roaring flames, including a 30-foot blaze stemming from a 500-pound propane tank, during a house fire in Ellicott, Colorado, March 13.
While there was structural damage to the home, no one was injured, as occupants were able to safely evacuate.
David Morton, Schriever FD dispatcher, was on shift when the call came in notifying him the fire was located approximately three miles from base. Schriever FD was the closest fire department with a 24-7 staff and has a mutual aid agreement with Ellicott.
“Once the call came in, it was a matter of getting our firefighters toned out, and headed toward the incident. The firefighters had to pay specific attention to the tank located at the structure,” said Morton.
“Toned out” is firefighter jargon for dispatching personnel to the scene of an incident.
SFD firefighters who arrived on scene were immediately assigned to cool the tank, sectioning it off and putting out its flames over several hours, said Steven Leibensperger, Schriever FD firefighter. After knocking down a surrounding deck, the tank was pulled away with an exposure line to quarantine the threat.
“It was an intense experience,” said Leibensperger.
The lack of nearby fire hydrants complicated the incident, necessitating an urgent resupply of on scene personnel and equipment from Schriever.
The optimal location of the base fueled the water resupply effort for other responding departments, said Christy Malone, deputy chief of operations at Ellicott Fire Station.
“Most of the water supply came from Schriever as they were nearby,” said Malone. “They (SFD) resupplied our trucks to keep the water jets flowing.”
The fire’s occurrence comes during a particularly busy season for firefighters in the area, with multiple red flag warnings indicating optimal wildfire conditions issued throughout the past few weeks alone. In addition, a stage one burn ban was recently put in place by safety personnel, adding further restrictions, such as prohibiting open flames.
Responders considered these factors during the fire, taking preventive measures just in case.
“We had a wildland fire mitigation team on standby,” said Malone. “If the fire goes beyond the structure, the truck assigned will cut it off to prevent anything major.”
Fortunately, said Leibensperger, the cool night conditions and the efficient response tamed the fire before it could spread any further.
Braving dangers is all part of the job said Leibensperger, an Air Force veteran firefighter who is now a civilian.
“It’s a really special career field. Working as a firefighter, you gain a passion to help the community,” he said.
Morton concurred, saying the fire was one example of the will of Schriever FD personnel to put their lives on the line to save others.
“Our firefighters are extremely efficient with any emergency response they may be called to,” he said. “However, they get extra excited to fight fire. For them, it’s extremely gratifying when they saved someone's life or their personal property. “
In 2016, Schriever FD responded to approximately 22 mutual aid requests, indicative of the relationship between the department and local area fire units.