Wildland fire, a documentary film

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Firefighters made no attempt to save Flying W Ranch because of the danger it posed to them. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Firefighters made no attempt to save Flying W Ranch because of the danger it posed to them.

The Denver Post
has produced an extraordinary 28-minute documentary about wildland fire that's a must-see for people in the West, especially those who believe firefighters should do whatever is necessary to save residents' homes and lives.

It was assembled by the newspaper's staff and includes interviews with firefighters on the ground, residents who lost everything and forestry experts and officials.

Among those interviewed is Capt. Steve Riker, the Springs firefighter in command when the Waldo Canyon Fire swept into the city on June 26, 2012.

Describing the weather conditions that gave rise to the blast into the city, Riker says, "We were prepared for this." But not really, as we documented in our report of Dec. 12, 2012. In fact, Riker wasn't qualified to be the commander that day, which also is outlined in that report.

Moreover, the Forest Service's inward look at the Waldo fire by its National Incident Management Organization found that resources weren't always deployed as they should have been; visits from politicians added stress; and locals proved inexperienced in dealing with such a major event.

In any event, the Post's documentary uses dispatch recordings as backdrops for compelling video of firefighters risking their lives trying to save homes built in the wildland urban interface.

One of those recordings features a firefighter telling others to forget about trying to save the Flying W Ranch. "I want no unit back in the Flying W Ranch area," the firefighter says.

Riker and others get things right in describing the hell storm they encountered and ominously provide this warning: "It's gonna happen again," Riker says.

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