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Evergreen firefighters come to the aid of flood victims

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By Sandy Barnes

As relentless rain created major flooding problems in Evergreen, local firefighters organized and initiated efforts to keep residents and property safe during the weekend of Sept. 13.

Chris Johnson, Evergreen fire operations chief, set up a command post for the Jefferson County Incident Management Team at Fire Station 2 in Bergen Park. Firefighters also were at Stations 1 and 5 that weekend to assist with operations.

An initial task for firefighters was getting word to residents about evacuations.

“We were careful about how we issued evacuation orders,” Johnson said. 

Firefighters went door to door in flooded areas to notify residents and help them evacuate their homes, he said, adding that firefighters concentrated on reaching people before they became stranded because of impassable roads.

Another major effort for Evergreen volunteer firefighters was assisting residents and National Guard units with sandbagging to prevent flooding. 

Johnson went to Kittredge to help residents place sandbags in strategic places.

“Thirty people in Kittredge were doing a lot of work,” said Evergreen Fire Chief Mike Weege. “We sent firefighters to organize.”

“Social media was huge for us,” said Johnson. “That’s how we got 80-plus people to show up.”

“An important part of the story is Babcock Nursery, which donated a lot of sandbags,” he added.

Weege said that while Evergreen is “not out of the woods yet,” he was gratified that there were no injuries or fatalities during the flooding.

The only flood-related incident involved a dog that fell into Bear Creek.

Working with a swift-water rescue team, firefighters saved the canine from raging waters in the Upper Bear Creek area on Saturday evening.

“He was trapped under the bridge,” said Johnson.

During the rain-driven flood, which began in Evergreen on Sept. 12 and extended into that weekend, Evergreen Fire Protection District board members also helped residents and emergency crews.

Fire board member Jeff deDisse went to residents’ homes in the Upper Bear Creek area near his ranch, offering them assistance and direction.

George Kling, fire board president, found life vests and a raft for emergency personnel and firefighters working near the fast-flowing creek.

Because of a relatively low number of emergency calls, firefighters and other personnel were able to focus on flood assistance during the extended flooding.

“The citizens did an outstanding job of holding out on heart attacks and accidents,” Kling joked.

 “I think adversity brings out true colors,” fire board member Valeri Leswing said.

Planning alternate routes

Faced with roads that are still impassable or in compromised condition, Weege and Johnson are identifying alternate routes for emergency access.

“We have to adjust how we respond,” said Weege. ‘We’re working out pre-plans.”

The fire district’s 120-square-mile area of coverage includes portions of Clear Creek County where roads have suffered serious damage.

“Beaver Brook Canyon Road was completely washed out,” said Weege. 

Residents in that area are using dirt roads as alternate routes until the road can be repaired.

Because large fire equipment cannot travel on small, winding roads, the fire department would use brush trucks to respond, said Weege.

In areas where there is no road access, emergency crews would travel in all-terrain vehicles or hike to the incident, he said. They would transport victims by carrying them in stokes baskets.

Weege said that firefighters and EMS personnel can still respond to emergency situations. It just may take longer in areas where roads are damaged or destroyed.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.