As heavy air tankers dumped retardant over the Waldo Canyon fire Sunday, community members dumped water and ice on a group of volunteers in Colorado Springs.

Fire Rehab Services, a program of the Pikes Peak Firefighters Association, was charged with nourishing and hydrating firefighters fresh from the blaze.

The group set up camp at Coronado High School on Sunday, where they manned a kitchen, a sandwich assembly line and coolers of water. They were charged with preparing 150 meals for tthe 7:30 p.m. arrival of crews from the fire’s front lines.

“What we’re doing is building a little city here because we are going to be here for a couple of days,” said Jim Hattfield, a group spokesman.

Fire Rehab got its start 10 years ago right before the Hayman fire, Hattfield said. On Sunday, the group’s mission was getting food to command centers and crews, some of whom had not eaten in hours.

The all-volunteer Rehab Crew was short on ice for much of Sunday morning but by early afternoon, cars were streaming into the Coronado parking lot dropping off trunkfuls of ice and pallets of bottled water.

Sam’s Club and Costco each donated a pallet of water. Wal-Mart marketing manager Gary Peacock also drove up with 300 pounds of packaged water. At some point, the community response became overwhelming, said volunteer Scott Rand.

The stack of water cases next to the Fire Rehab camp grew into a mountain by mid afternoon.

Tammy Gugliotta, a detective with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, delivered 200 donated Wendy’s hamburgers to Sheriff’s Office officials at nearby Holmes Middle School.

By 3:30 p.m. Sunday, fire crews themselves were driving from the front lines to pick up food and water. Two trucks carted away the last of the Wendy’s 200 salads and burgers.

They then loaded a third truck with water to take to the crews on the hillside.

With federal incident command teams taking over Sunday night, it was unclear how long the Rehab Crew would be on duty.

Federal vehicles from Texas arrived by Sunday afternoon to set up camp for the burgeoning team.

“The last time I saw this much support was during Hayman,” said Scott Rand.
- By Ryan Maye Handy