It would be midnight or after when the siren screamed shrilly through the rural Kansas night, telling me my dad would be heading for a fire. Soon the door would slam, and his pickup would start and rumble away. Without protective clothing back then, in the 1950s, he and my granddad would volunteer to help save someone's house or barn or haystack.
Decades later, my husband would be scarred for life as a volunteer firefighter, when a blazing roof fell onto his back.
Firefighters have always chosen to take risks, it's true. But firefighting has come a long way, and a large city should give its firefighters every possible advantage, even in the worst fires.
It's been almost six months since Springs firefighters took on the Waldo Canyon blaze. Even before most were dispatched to Mountain Shadows, two residents died. When the firefighters did get into the subdivision, they dealt not only with ungodly flames, but also unmitigated confusion.
Our cover story, "Misfire," starting here, provides new information in extraordinary detail from firefighter reports never before made public. Those reports, along with other documents and interviews, paint a picture that won't be easy for some to accept. Especially since as of now, we're being asked to simply trust the city's own review of how it all went down.
As the author of a 2011 University of Georgia study about firefighter fatalities wrote, "As a society, we ought to make the effort to make it safer." And that's the best argument for seeking an independent review of the Waldo disaster.
— Pam Zubeck