Get new technology for firefighters

I am writing this as a message to all across this great nation, to help seek better protection for firefighters. This message is inspired by the tragic and needless loss of life of the 19 firefighters in Arizona. I was, 40 years ago, a firefighter for the United States Forest Service, I was a regular fire crew member, Engine Operator and oh yes, a hotshot, the same as those who just lost their lives in Arizona. I spent 10 years in firefighting service before deciding to "get out". Irrespective of circumstances, the 10 standard firefighters orders, I believe everyone is missing the point, and while lamenting the passing of these 19 heroes, failing to really see the culprit.

All firefighters rely on the fire shelter as a last resort means to save your life. Ironically, in the trade this device is called the "shake and bake". The fire shelter is basically a souped-up fancy emergency blanket, or space blanket as many people who back pack or are in emergency services use to retain heat for victims and in emergency situations.

Only about 5 inches thick, 6 inches wide, and 14 inches long when folded up and shoved into its NOMEX holster - it is removed from the holster, is shaken out and then the person inserts his feet and hands into pockets at each end. He then pulls the shelter over his back, rolls over onto the ground and prays to live. Time and time again, this product has failed to save the lives of those who so selflessly gave theirs to protect others. I encourage each of you to visit a firefighter and ask to see the fire shelter, then ask yourself, would you fight fire and expect it to save your life?

The DOD spends millions to research and develop equipment to protect and save loss of life of soldiers. I believe it is time that the National Wildfire Group, USFS or whomever the designated oversight agency is, be funded and directed that research and development needs to occur and a replacement tool given to our firefighters. One that works. Go to this web page for a look at what it is:

Perhaps it is time to hound our senators and Congress to get the money and research going. No doubt someone will write back to the editor, someone who will call or think me ignorant, calloused or uninformed, but in reality all I care about is that we stop using a 40-year-old technology (admittedly improved) that does not work, and get a product that does save lives into the hands of these fire fighting soldiers.

Bob Curtis, Monument


The great discrepancy in sentences

In May, you reported a woman convicted of looting a house vacated because of the Waldo Canyon fire was sentenced to 72 years in prison. The male partner in the crime was given 48 years. The woman, a drug addict at age 9 (can a 9-year-old buy illegal drugs?) had three prior drug convictions. The man had four convictions, for drugs and attempted burglary.

Last week, you reported a felon on parole participated in two murders and was sentenced to 33 years. Several years ago a couple in Fountain murdered the man's mother, buried her in the backyard, and cashed her Social Security checks for months before they were caught.

The man was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the wife to only 10, and I believe she was released early. Still further back, a man walked into a bar on Nevada Avenue (as I remember, it was Jim & I) with a shotgun, killed several people, and wounded others. He walked free, because the jury decided the prosecution failed to prove the man intended to kill anyone when he entered the bar.

It seems in Colorado murder is considered not so serious a crime. There is now a movement against the death penalty, but few consider a murderer deals out the death penalty without wasting time with the justice system. What confuses me is the great discrepancy in sentences handed out in relation to the severity of the crime.

Pat Krieger, Colorado Springs


Thanking the insurance companies

Re: Bill Vogrin's, "Crackdown is coming." June 29:

It sounds like the insurance companies are behaving like typical generals - fighting the last war. It might make sense to raise home insurance rates on all of Colorado given our statewide risk of wildfire. It might make sense to raise rates on neighborhoods still at risk such as the entire southwest part of the city, University Park and those that border the bone-dry, fuel-filled, Palmer Park.

I am confident however, that it will be a long time before Mountain Shadows experiences another major wildfire. Even last July, I remarked that the only benefit of the Waldo Canyon fire is that now I don't have to worry about the fire that was inevitable for the west side. Our fuel is gone.

Now it may seem counterintuitive, but if you drive around Mountain Shadows you will see many houses that were destroyed, but the trees around them are intact. It seems that these homes were taken down by the ember storm off the unmitigated National Forest and not by their own trees.

In the neighborhoods that were destroyed, it is likely that most of the damage was from heat of one burning house catching its neighbor on fire because of proximity being in the 20-foot range.

Maybe the insurance companies will demand that you eliminate all neighbors within 100 feet?

But in the defense of the insurance companies, when it all comes down, it hasn't been the politicians or the community groups who have put Mountain Shadows back together again so incredibly fast, it's been the insurance companies and the construction workers. So thanks American Family, USAA, State Farm, etc.! But let's be thoughtful about the landscaping.

Douglas Hammerstrom, Colorado Springs