Emergency Dispatch: Cameron Peak

Lessons learned from the front line of a wildland fire

By Craig Cable, Director of Ministry Safety and Strategic Partnerships, American Church Group of Colorado

The first page came in around 3:00 p.m., “Emergency Dispatch: Fire on Cameron Peak. All Reserves on Standby!” Within a few short hours, I was donning my fire suit, duty belt, and a ballistic vest, and was on my way up the mountain pass to help protect people and property as firefighters focused on battling the growing blaze.

Before I go much further into my story, it may be helpful to understand a few of the different hats that I wear.

In addition to serving as the Director of Ministry Safety and Strategic Partnerships for American Church Group of Colorado, I am also a Reserve Deputy for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office., I also volunteer several hundred hours serving my community as a Patrol Deputy, Threat Liaison Officer, Crisis Intervention Team member, and School Marshal. It is an absolute honor and privilege to serve alongside some of the bravest and most dedicated law enforcement professionals in the country. It just so happens that, occasionally, I am called to help fight fires at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level.

Now that we’ve established why I’m helping to fight a fire, let’s get back to some of the lessons I learned after spending several days on the front line.

Lesson 1: Do not wait to mitigate

The most common conversation I’ve been having with homeowners who can’t return to their mountain homes is that they wished they had taken the time to trim trees and forest debris away from their residences. Yes, they know they live on the mountains. Yes, they know forest fires happen in the mountains. No, they didn’t think it would happen on their mountain.


Ministries face these same risks. If you see vulnerabilities or risks within your ministry, DO NOT DELAY. No one ever believes that it’s going to happen at their church. Rather than wondering if it’s going to happen, plan and prepare for when it happens. You must start mitigating risks today—because tomorrow may not give you a second chance.


Lesson 2: Bad people look for easy opportunities

This probably will not come as a surprise to you, but bad people may try to get into an evacuated area because they know no one will be home to stop them from looting the property. I have made a handful of traffic stops near the evacuated area that were very suspicious. One stop involved two people in a pickup truck who were out for a leisurely drive in the mountains. It just so happened to be at 2 a.m. In police work, we call that a “clue.”


Whether it’s an under-trained or ill-prepared safety team or not having policies or procedures in place, a ministry that appears to be vulnerable, or is, in fact, vulnerable, will eventually be put to the test. What happens coming out of that test may determine the future of your ministry.


Lesson 3: Everyone has a plan until the winds change

One thing you can count on in the mountains is wind. The challenge comes in determining which direction the wind will blow. Over the last several days, the wildfires in Colorado have swirled every direction on the compass. What’s remarkable about these wildland firefighters is that it doesn’t matter which direction the fire is going, they have back up plans to their back up plans in order to meet the fire at every turn. From dropping fire retardant slurry near structures to back burning smaller controlled fires to help rob the major fire of future fuel sources, these incredible men and women are prepared for every contingency.


Preparation and risk mitigation are not one and done efforts. As time goes on and situations evolve, you should be constantly looking at where new vulnerabilities and risks are emerging. Relying on church safety professionals such as myself or your local American Church Group of Colorado agent is critical to helping you be prepared, should the winds take a turn for the worst.


Currently, Colorado is fighting five forest fires. Collectively, over 180,000 acres of Colorado is on fire. I ask that you keep me, my fellow deputies, officers, and our brave firefighters in your prayers as they selflessly put themselves in harm’s way, day-after-day, to keep people and property safe.

We at American Church Group of Colorado are honored to be your trusted risk management partners. Whether it’s helping you mitigate your risks, identifying your vulnerabilities, or helping you develop a sound risk management plan, we’re here to serve you every step of the way.

We’d love to talk through your ministry’s unique risks with you and how we might help you mitigate those risks. Call or email me for more information: 303-590-9657 x109 | CCable@AmericanChurchGroup.com.


 

© 2020 American Church Group of Colorado, LLC. All rights reserved.

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