BLACK FOREST, Colo. — California’s governor has declared a state of emergency as the wildfires there force thousands of families to evacuate.
The wildfires raging across the western part of the United States this year have now burned more than 8 million acres, and fire crews from here in Colorado Springs helped control them in California.
Stephen Shelters, Lt. Jamal Davis, David Schlingmann, and Matt Chaston from the Black Forest Fire Rescue have just come back from fighting the flames in California. It was a battle that a fire of our own helped them prepare for.
“Definitely the experience of the Black Forest fire helped us better relate to the residents there. We were able to feel a little bit more of what they were going through,” Shelters said.
“Being part of the Black Forest fire, it made us better prepared and better trained in order to help our fellow firefighters,” Davis said.
Thousands of fire crews from across the nation have been brought in to help.
“We saw firefighters not only from the western states but as far as West Virginia as well,” Davis said.
Some of them were the same people who were there for us in our time of need.
“A lot of the people you meet actually were here on the Black Forest fire,” Schlingmann said. “When they see where you’re from or hear where you’re from, they were like ‘oh we were on your fire.’”
And while many of the men and women running toward the flames are veterans, there was at least one rookie.
Matt Chaston, a new Black Forest firefighter, just turned 20 years old.
“I wanted to do what I could to help in any way that I could, to relieve some of that stress of people that are losing their homes to such a disaster,” he said.
“It took a lot to get out there and assist but that’s what we do, and it’s all a brotherhood. It was very fulfilling,” Davis said.
“It’s what I signed up for. That’s why I’m a firefighter. I’m just there to help people,” Shelters said.
Six firefighters from the Black Forest Fire Rescue went to help out in California. Mike Cobb and Mike Skeldon were unavailable for an interview Tuesday.
The crew said their job was to keep the flames from jumping roads and to help get residents ready to evacuate.