Fires fought by many brave souls

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Fire has a way of casting a light on the true nature of people.  Over the past week, those of us in the Sapello-Rociada Volunteer Fire Department’s district saw the courage and caring of many people, not only in our district but throughout San Miguel and Mora counties. Two separate fires, the La Canada wildland fire and the Apodaca residence fire, were beyond the capacity of our fire department.  What’s more, high winds destroyed our radio repeater not once but twice — both times almost simultaneously with the threat of fire.

When lack of communications hampered our ability to describe the full extent of our need, fast-thinking dispatchers with New Mexico State Police simply paged for mutual aid from all available fire departments. I cannot tell you how grateful and touched we were at the extent of response from our fellow fire companies as well as from state and national forestry units and New Mexico State Police.

Nor was the response limited to trained fire fighters, especially at the Gascon house fire on Monday, Dec. 20. Circumstances could not have been worse. High winds affected a wood stove, starting that fire, and fanned the flames, destroying that home, threatening a neighboring structure, creating a spot fire downwind and threatening the possibility of more. Two of our primary trucks were in Albuquerque for annual pump testing, and we had many firefighters out of district. The nearest available fire department was on alert for mutual aid, and we prayed nothing would happen. Happen it did.

Only two firefighters were initially available. Neighbors helped or we could not have operated trucks, positioned hoses, and attacked the fire. After a crash course to volunteers, they helped with pumps, pulling hose —whatever they could to support the trained firefighters. The local school bus driver retrieved another fire truck to ensure water supply.

I am proud to call these people my friends and neighbors. That includes the men who spotted the flames and aided the resident in escaping the fire.

There are too many individuals and fire companies for me to list and to whom we owe thanks. It is a comfort to know we are not alone, and I hope that our fellow fire companies know that we’ll return the favor.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the volunteers of Sapello-Rociada Volunteer Fire Department. I know how hard you train at difficult skills and stand ready to serve at a moment’s notice at a job that is frequently hazardous, often traumatic and for which you are not paid a dime. I am proud to be one of you.  If there is proof of human decency anywhere in the world, I know it is found among the firefighters and EMS and law enforcement personnel on whom we all depend during our darkest moments.

Chief Kayt C. Peck
Sapello-Rociada Volunteer
Fire Department