By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — North of Peterson AFB, a massive column of thick smoke is visible for miles while the smell of burning pine trees fills the air. All attention and resources are focused on containment of the Black Forest Fire, which has been raging for the past two days.
The fire department chiefs, Chief Master Sgt. Mark Crowe of Peterson and Christopher Miller of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, wasted no time in responding to support requests from El Paso County Sheriff’s Department through a mutual aid agreement.
The 21st Space Wing sent four personnel with one fire truck to work on building and structural protection inside the fire zone. The 721st Mission Support Group at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station also sent a crew of nine personnel with one fire truck to support the effort to protect life and property.
Six other firefighters from the 21st SW were also sent to backfill the CMAFS fire department. A combined three-person crew from the 21st and 721st were also sent to backfill a Colorado Springs fire station.
The CMAFS Fire Department personnel are unique in the fact that their members are “red card” certified meaning they possess specific wildland fire training, which is invaluable in a situation like this.
A “red card” indicates a person has undergone official federal training specific to fighting wildland fires.
“These Airmen are specially trained and ready to respond to this kind of natural disaster,” said Col. Joe Turk, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station installation commander. “This was validated during their support to the Waldo Canyon fire last year.”
According to the Colorado State Forest Service, to earn your “Red Card,” or Interagency Incident Qualification Card, individuals must complete the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Basic Firefighter course and the Introduction to Fire Behavior course. In addition to classroom and field training, individuals also must pass a physical work-capacity test, called the “pack test,” to prove they are able to perform physically arduous tasks in the field.
“These Airmen are working tirelessly in support of state and local authorities and firefighters on the ground,” Turk said. “We will continue to provide support as our resources and capabilities allow.”
The fire crews from Peterson and CMAFS are replaced on a regular basis to allow ample time to recover and to send in rested personnel to continue the fight. A fire crew from F.E. Warren AFB, Cheyenne, Wyo., has also arrived to augment the Peterson fire department for on-base emergencies.
“After working through the Waldo Canyon fire last year, we understand the need for a unified effort from all agencies involved in this response,” said Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander. “It is incredible to watch so many organizations come together to protect this community.”
For up to date information about the Black Forest Fire check with local media outlets.