El Paso County turned over command of the 117 Fire Thursday morning to the Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team Black. One of the biggest changes under the new command is an emphasis on containing and putting out the fire. Up until today, the primary focus was to protect homes and structures.
Incident Commander Mark Hatcher praised the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for handling the initial attack. As of 6:00 a.m. when Team Black took over, the fire was already 60 percent contained.
Team Black is one of a pair of Type Two incident management teams that are stationed in this part of the country. Spokesperson Dawn Sanchez said the team members are all professionals who come from a variety of backgrounds.
"It’s a collateral duty for a majority of us," Sanchez said. "We have our normal day jobs, just like like I have my normal day job still, and they allow me to come out and help with this national fire effort."
A common trait shared by the team members is a wealth of experience in fighting complex fires. The team was assigned to nine different location last year across in the Western US.
Sanchez hopes that local crews, who’ve been fighting the fire since Tuesday afternoon, can get some rest.
"It exhausts those folks. So, we’re able to come in, they can go and get some sleep, they can rehab their engines and we take it from there and make sure everybody gets fed and housed and can fight fire safely the next day."
There is still a very large fire response with around 300 people operating 150 different fire trucks, bulldozers, and road graders in an effort to build containment lines around the fire. Commanders received helicopter air support from Fort Carson and air tanker support from crews stationed in Pueblo and Denver.