In this rare behind-evacuated-lines perspective, Steve Schopper, an audio/visual specialist for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, shows viewers how the team carefully manages the flames around a house threatened by the Black Forest fire north of the city. Firefighters on the Structure Protection Strike Team stand like sentinels around the house deck as the fire crawls flashing slowly along the ground toward them. They’re preserving their water resources and allowing the flames to consume as much “fuel” as possible — the grassy ground-cover around the home — leaving the house intact and better shielded against the fire’s return. After defending the perimeter, the firefighters douse the edge of the burnt area and check with the back of their hands to ensure the flames are completely out before moving on to another assignment.
“In five-and-a-half minutes, you’ve seen what took two-and-a-half hours to do,” Schopper tells viewers, as the fire vehicle he’s sitting in rides through a blanket of white smoke to the next structure to save.
The Black Forest fire is the most destructive in Colorado history, consuming 379 homes to date. On Thursday the response team confirmed that two people lost their lives in the process of fleeing their home. Slow gains have been made against the fire’s spread, which leveled at about 15,000 acres last night.