Portions of our stories this week are based on 116 duty reports spanning 227 pages filed by Colorado Springs Fire Department firefighters who worked the Waldo Canyon Fire. The Independent obtained the reports under the Colorado Open Records Act, and they were provided in several phases as they were filed over a three-month period.
Every fire company assigned to an apparatus is expected to report on any incident to which it's been dispatched, according to Deputy Chief Steve Dubay. The report is designed to document what happened when, and who was involved. Data include dispatch and arrival times; weather conditions; which firefighters were on board; and what actions were taken.
Reports for the Waldo Canyon Fire weren't required to be filed at the end of shift, as is usually the case. Rather, the deadline was Sept. 30, so firefighters had "an opportunity to get their thoughts right," as put by Dubay in an Aug. 22 interview.
The Fire Department decided to have firefighters report under two separate incident numbers. The first was for the Cedar Heights call-out June 23, for which 38 reports were filed. The second was for June 26 when the homes burned, for which 47 reports were filed.
Nothing that happened Sunday, June 24, or Monday, June 25, was considered a separate incident, according to Dubay, so reports for those days weren't required. "They don't have to write a report for every time they move," he said.
Still, 10 firefighters filed reports for Sunday, a day during which 23 apparatus were dispatched to Cedar Heights, and three filed reports for Monday, when 11 apparatus were on duty in Cedar Heights and four in Mountain Shadows. The city also provided 10 reports for Wednesday, and eight for the four days that followed.
The 116 reports vary dramatically. District chiefs tend to report events in great detail, noting which trucks and engines did what and strategic maneuvers, among other things. Some others' reports are so brief as to be almost meaningless.
For example, Brush Truck 12 is reported to have responded from an "unknown" location Sunday, June 24, and stayed on duty until July 1. The narrative states: "It is unknown who was on this veh[icle]. It was deployed for over a week with different people on it. It was at Cedar Heights on structure protection — no action taken. It was in Mt Shadows — unknown action taken. It was in Peregrine — unknown tasks performed."
Nevertheless, most reports describe company actions, in often-compelling ways, that have allowed the Independent to reconstruct the city's fire response. As we've done so, we've attempted to highlight details that speak to themes seen throughout the reports.