Life just got a little easier for wildland firefighters at Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District. If there is any luxury at all for the crews battling forest fires at home or away, the district’s new brush truck teases the edges of comfort.
The seats recline, the refrigerator keeps food fresh, a pull-out table eases the burden of writing reports, and a cabinet holds luggage and equipment in a dry place.
“We used to throw our bags on top of the truck,” said Greg Bodine. “And then it rains… We didn’t enjoy living out of the old truck.”
As well, the shiny red truck has room for all the necessary maintenance supplies for fighting fires — shovels, saws, a 500-gallon tank, firefighting gear and equipment. If not used for fires in Teller County, the truck can be deployed to fight fires in other parts of Colorado, or in Arizona or California, for instance.
For most deployments, travel time is six days to and from a site, with tent camping at night. When arriving at a site, the crews join others at a campsite. “The camps are like small cities,” said NETCO Captain Brian Stimits.
Deployments of five certified wildland firefighters away from the district is part of NETCO’s commitment to building relationships. “Our community is small and it benefits everybody if we understand how to work with each other,” Stimits said.
With a $330,000 price tag, the brush truck was paid for by NETCO’s capital-replacement fund. With each deployment, the district is reimbursed by the appropriate agency for the use of the truck and the crews.
Because the firefighters’ deployments take them out of the district, the agency also provides reimbursement funds for the home crews that cover the vacancies at the station in Woodland Park. The wildland firefighters are gone a minimum of 14 days, Stimits said.
The truck was built by the same company hired by the state of California and the U.S. Forest Service. Stimits, along with Jonas Johnsen, was part of the apparatus committee that did the research for designing the truck.
While the crews may be called away to fight fires in other parts of the West, for now, Teller County is in a favorable spot due to the recent rains. “This year is very green,” Stimits said.