During the spring of 2013, La Veta Fire Protection Chief David DeTray asked the district’s board of directors for permission to pursue an El Pomar Foundation Wild Land Fire Fund grant. Before his organization could apply for funding, the volunteer fire district 15 miles west of Walsenburg caught fire.
Between May 24th and June 19th, three major fires started in or near the fire district. The Occidental Fire burned 13 acres; the Klikus Fire scorched 42 acres, and the East Peak Fire devoured 13,500 acres before containment. La Veta Fire Protection District fought all three fires. During the onslaught, El Pomar’s Wild Land Fire Fund team reached out to Chief DeTray to find out the organization’s most immediate needs.
Chief DeTray’s department lacked the resources to safely outfit all of his volunteer firefighters. The increased need for firefighters put a spotlight on La Veta’s supplies, and they used an El Pomar grant to purchase new gear to combat the flames.
The Wild Land Fire Fund grant outfitted La Veta’s volunteers with wild land gloves, brush shirts, wildcat goggles, and wild land pants while providing the department with head lamps, first aid kits, and a handheld G.P.S.
To put out the fires, La Veta Fire Protection District collaborated with hand crews, helicopters, and dozens of engines and water tenders. The flames from the East Peak Fire reached 200 feet into the air and took three weeks to contain. The entire town of Walsenburg was under a pre-evacuation alert for multiple days during the inferno.
Thanks to La Veta Fire Protection District and countless other agencies, wild fires failed to destroy the special communities in Southern Colorado.
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