By Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Much of the success in containing the Black Forest fire has been attributed to the large number of firefighters who responded in such a short amount of time. One of those responders was Capt. Jeremy Hancock, deputy flight commander of operations training at the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron here.
A space operator by trade, Hancock has been donning a second uniform in his off time for nearly 13 years since completing the fire academy his senior year in high school. Now, for the second time, he is a volunteer fire fighter with the Ellicott Fire Protection District.
When the Black Forest fire began June 11, Hancock got the call to come help shortly after a long day of work at his primary job.
“For the first two days I actually came to work and worked my normal day. I would [then] hit the fire line for seven or eight hours at night,” he said. “We were tasked for structural protection, so we would arrive at a section of homes that we were tasked to protect and cut a fire line around the home or put out any fire that was approaching.”
As a member of a seven-man team for Strike Force Whiskey, Hancock was able to draw on wildland firefighting experiences from his past, but noted you can never be fully prepared.
“Since no two fires are the same you think you know what to look for, but you get there and it’s completely different. That’s when training kicks in and it takes [hold] and you do what you’re trained to do,” said Hancock. “When we first got there the fire was about 4 or 5,000 acres. [The first night] it basically tripled in size. From there on out it remained about the same size, burning within itself.”
In his many years of firefighting, Hancock says this is the hottest fire he has ever experienced.
“There were times where the road was so hot that fire trucks actually fell through the road,” he said. “You could see the tire marks from where the rubber had melted off the tires on the street.”
On June 20, the Black Forest fire was announced as 100 percent contained. Hancock’s strike-force team was credited with 81 confirmed structural saves.
“Captain Hancock is the epitome of dedication,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bonzer, 527 SAS commander. “It’s not enough that he proudly wears the uniform every day in the U.S. Air Force willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for his country but also to volunteer and put his life on the line for our local community in a time of need — a true testament to his service before self.”
For Hancock, it’s about a love for what he does. He even boasts a degree in Emergency Management.
“I truly enjoy helping people,” he said. “Plus, there is no better way to give back and serve the local community while making a difference.”
Those who would like to see what it takes to become a volunteer firefighter should contact their local fire department.