BLACK FOREST, Colo. - A new video capturing Colorado Springs firefighters shielding a Black Forest home from oncoming flames is a textbook example of firefighting that captures the everyday heroism of crews battling a ferocious wildfire that has killed two people and destroyed 379 homes.
The video, shot about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday by Colorado Springs Fire Department, shows strike team members ringing the home, calmly waiting as the wind-whipped flames close in through a stand of trees.
"The Black Forest Fire is approaching this house that the strike team has been assigned to protect. And they are in position and ready to go to keep this house from catching on fire," audio/visual specialist Steve Schopper says in the video.
Some firefighters collect yard furniture, stacking it in one place so it doesn't catch fire around the yard, fueling the fire's spread. Others use hoes to cut fire line and remove fuel.
But mostly they wait patiently -- holding off on using their hoses to save water -- as the fire swiftly advances through the grass in the yard. They let it burn to remove potential fuel, until the flames reach the edge of the home, where grass meets wood chip mulch covering the ground around the house.
"The firefighter is now standing, waiting from the fire to arrive to him," Schopper says. "He's at the edge … where the grass meets the mulch and he's going to make sure the fire doesn't travel past that line. He's keeping his head on a swivel and watching for the fire in all direction."
"You'll see the fire is starting to creep to him, roughly at about….6 inches every second. The winds are picking up," Schopper says.
Schopper says the video can't convey the intense heat the fire is radiating at the firefighters, who are wearing protective clothing and face shields to filter out the smoke and hot gases.
The firefighters take position on the home's deck as the flames begin to climb the trunks of trees and smoke engulfs the fire crew.
Then the firefighters begin sparingly using their hoses to effectively direct the fire -- dousing flames coming right at the house, but letting the fire burn past the house.
"The fire has now passed through and it's done exactly what we wanted it to do and that is burn around the house and leave the house intact," Schopper says.
After the fire passes, Schopper says, "everything is nice and black here, and that's what we want. We don't want a bunch of unburnt fuel here."
The videographer shows the charred ground and the ghostly, smoke-shrouded figures of firefighters standing around the home they've saved.
The strike team "mops up" by hosing down the burn zone, dousing any embers to "make sure the fire is dead out" so it doesn't reignite after they've left, Schopper says.
Schopper lauds how the homeowner kept down fuel around the house, including trimming the lower branches of nearby trees to prevent fire from leaping up into the crown of the trees.
However, he cautions that wood chip mulch isn't a good ground cover to have around the house. "The mulch is very flammable and that's not a good thing to have right next to your house, because fire will wick right into the house and burn the house down," Schopper cautions.
"They're loading up their hose and ready to move onto the next assignment, the next house to save," he says as the fire crews drive off in smoke so thick "you couldn't see over the hood of the vehicle."
Watch the Video: