Basalt department’s specialized fire truck makes rounds in U.S.
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A wild-land fire truck based at the Basalt Fire Department has spent the summer traveling the western United States, working to stop forest fires in their tracks.
A number of Basalt firefighters have brought the truck and their services to the Hayman fire near Denver and fires in Steamboat Springs, New Mexico and Arizona.
Like many local agencies, support was also doled out for the Coal Seam fire in West Glenwood, but the truck was in Mesa Verde when the Missouri Heights fire exploded so close to the department’s own turf.
“People get extremely well-trained on wildfires [when traveling with the truck], and they’re used to working on federal fires so when one comes here, they know what to expect,” said Scott Thompson, Basalt fire chief.
The truck, which was built two years ago from revenue the fire department collected from helping on other federal fires, helps the department financially. The government pays the department $142 an hour for a minimum of eight hours per day each time it travels. The truck cost $60,000 to build.
Firefighter Christine Lapadakis, who has traveled with the truck this summer, said it has a 300-gallon tank and pump system. The truck also carries numerous tools and has room for three firefighters.
The crew and truck recently returned from the Big Fish fire near Meeker.
“We were protecting some structures at a ranch, near Trapper’s Lake ? the Trapper’s Lodge,” said Lapadakis, who was the engine boss for the wild-land truck on that mission. “We sat there for three to four days and watched the fires. We couldn’t do anything because the fire is in a designated wilderness area, so we just watered everything.”
Lapadakis said wind pushed the fire within 200 yards of the cabins being watched over.
“It’s an awesome site to see, watching the fires come through and toward you when you’re just standing there, but you can’t do anything,” she said.
After bulldozers build fire lines, the Basalt crew wets down the area. Last year the truck helped with California’s Highway Complex fire, and in Battle Mountain, Nev.
The truck is used locally ? such as at the Coal Seam fire ? but is not on the first line of defense for the Basalt Fire Department, since it is often traveling during the summer.
“It’s part of our fleet, but not our initial attack fleet, because when it goes away we don’t want to be missing an important piece of equipment,” Thompson said. “If we have such bad fire conditions in this area, we’d hold it here.”
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