Proactive Carbondale fire department deserves praise
Fire Chief Ron Leach and his Carbondale fire department deserve applause for their action in snuffing out a potentially disastrous blaze in Missouri Heights last Thursday.This was not just a case of responding to a report of flames and bravely saving homes, though such action would deserve recognition all the same. In this case, given the tinder-dry conditions this summer, a Carbondale engine has been dispatched to simply patrol the fire-prone outlying areas of the district.In other words, Leach and his firefighters had already decided, given the dangerous conditions this summer, to have an engine patrol the highest-risk areas in case of wildfire. The gamble most certainly paid off last Thursday.Lightning ignited a fire that day in the Panorama Estates area, which has a history of dangerous wildfire, and immediately threatened several homes. The Carbondale and Basalt departments quickly teamed up to get more firefighters and equipment to the site, but the “patrol engine” clearly gave them the edge they needed.It’s worth noting here that the two midvalley fire districts are doing a remarkable job of cooperating these days – both to educate the public about wildfire danger and to fight the fires when they happen. We’ll never know how far the latest Panorama fire would have spread and what would have happened if that engine hadn’t been patrolling Missouri Heights that day. But we do know that, in the time it would have taken for a Carbondale or Basalt fire truck to reach the Panorama area from the valley floor, that lightning-triggered blaze would have gotten much bigger. And it may well have destroyed homes.Sure, it costs more money to send a fire engine out on patrol like a police cruiser. Under normal circumstances it would seem like a paranoid waste of valuable dollars to patrol for fire. But drought has made this a dangerous season for western Colorado, and this kind of pre-emptive action is smart policy.Yes, the summer rains seem to have returned to the Colorado Rockies. But we’re not safe from wildfire just yet. Be vigilant out there. For tips on protecting your property, go to basaltfire.org, carbondalefire.org or firewise.org.