Published: June 13, 2013
Cass Kilduff, speaking through a thick, fire-fueled haze, leaned over.
"Everything's not working in here - GPS-wise," Kilduff said, shaking his head.
Moments later, Kilduff saw a garage erupt on Table Rock Road.
As hundreds of firefighters from across the state battled the Black Forest fire, the salvation of one block of homes east of Monument was left to an Elbert County wildland crew patrolling in three trucks along a smoky dirt road.
Alerted to flames creeping along green grass alongside a garage, the men raced up the dirt driveway.
Two men pulled out hoses, dousing the blaze in minutes as it crept to within inches of the garage's foundation.
A single-story blue house sat about 15 feet to the north - untouched, at the moment, by the slowly advancing flames.
Kilduff walked back to his red pickup and called in reinforcements.
"We've got heavy smoke," he said, speaking into a radio. "We've got to have fire due southwest of us."
Sure enough, 100 feet away, it chewed through grass and duff - the forest floor's base layer of pine needles.
About 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, less than 10 minutes after arriving, a firefighter approached.
"We're going to lose the garage - it's fully involved inside," the firefighter said. "But we can save the house."
Two minutes later, a voice piped up on the radio.
"You tell me what you need, and we'll get it to you."
Another crew ventured down Table Rock Road about 20 minutes later.
Kilduff ordered his men around the house, some finding flames licking their way up nearby trees. At 6:27 p.m., fire shot from the roof of the garage. An explosion echoed from inside.
"Hey, it's torching," Kilduff announced.
Moments later, the flames stretched into the canopy. Kilduff shouted for journalists to leave.
For a few minutes firefighters poured water on flames towering 30 feet high, and then they, too, had to retreat.
Kilduff said the crew had saved many homes while fighting the fire, but this one was lost.