When the wild blaze of Colorado’s High Park fire began to exhaust local resources, it fell on the state’s National Guard units to supplement those firefighting and support element forces and make it possible to contain the raging flames and secure the entrance to the burn areas, allowing civilian responders to focus on other missions.
Maj. Michael McClelland, Task Force Security commander with the 193rd Military Police Battalion, said the Guard had 62 troops on the ground at the joint support operations area in Larimer County June 12 – within 24 hours of the governor’s official request for support.
“When we get the call, our guys come running and we bring our extensive experience and training with us,” said McClelland.
The National Guard is a dual mission organization – responding to the call of both state and nation – and this kind of emergency is the type of event that the Guard prepares for, he said.
While red-card certified aviators representing National Guard units from Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska fight the fire by helicopter and hose, and communications troops provide an interoperability communications platform for multiple agencies, military policemen with the 193rd assist the Larimer Country Sheriff’s office with evacuations and protect personnel and property in the High Park fire, said McClelland.
“We’re very anxious to assist in any way we can,” he said.
Meanwhile, Larimer County area residents come to the CONG Readiness Center in Fort Collins and to traffic control points across the region in droves to show their thanks and support by bringing water, food and a kind word for those on duty.
Cy Johnson, a Larimer County resident and his family members sat among stacks of boxes containing water, fruit and snacks next to traffic control point 12. About a week ago, he and his neighbor, Hank Shribner, pooled money and filled a cooler with water and snacks to distribute to people fighting the fires. Community members added to the stockpile, and now Johnson’s truck bed is overflowing with supplies he and his family have been transporting throughout the region to support the fight.
“We can’t go home, so it feels better to be down here doing something,” Johnson said. “It’s inspirational. All those fighting out here are doing a great job and they’ve displayed great professionalism.”
Spc. Daniel Evanson, an augmentee with the 193rd Military Police Battalion, said being here has been gratifying.
“It feels good to know that we’re helping our fellow Coloradans,” Evanson said. “This is exactly what we train for.”
Long after the newness of this emergency wears off, the CONG will continue to support the community, said McClelland.
“No matter how long it takes, we’re here for the sheriff's office and the people of Larimer County,” he said.