As crews make progress containing the Hayden Pass Fire, local teams are slowly needing less help from neighboring agencies.
While the Hayden Pass Fire started on federal lands, sheriffs are actually the fire wardens for their own counties. Local fires can grow to the state or federal level, but it is the close day-to-day relationships between neighbors that play a big role.
Blazing away in both Fremont and Custer counties, agencies are coming in from across southern Colorado, including Pueblo County. As local deputies went door-to-door evacuating endangered residents last week, Sheriff Kirk Taylor sent in four of his own men to make sure no one else drove towards the flames.
"The biggest sheriff role that there is," explains Taylor, "is deputies for evacuations, for traffic control and for the public safety, looting and those types of things."
Taylor says Fremont County Jim Beicker asked for help, and he was able to provide deputies who normally patrol CSU Pueblo during the school year. They only worked one 12-hour shift when they were most needed, but they are always ready to assist. "If a sheriff calls me and I have the resources to send him I will as far as deputies are concerned," says Taylor. "With regards to fire, once the fire becomes a state fire or a federal fire designated, then they pull out of a system called ROSS."
The Resource Ordering and Status System is a national database that helps in major emergencies like wildfires. Local agencies like Trinidad Fire Department can input units that they can spare at any given time.
Pueblo County, on the other hand, only has five trucks used to fight wildland fires for 72% of the jurisdiction, so they are not on the list. Taylor says, "Your first responsibility is to your community, and so you want to make sure that you leave enough resources in your community should something happen that you can respond effectively to."
In cases like the Hayden Pass Fire, the current incident commander is from South Dakota and may not have the personal connections like sheriffs within the community, so he can use the ROSS database to order what he needs by distance.