Rist Canyon firefighters keep fighting after losing station, own homes

11:40 PM, Jun 19, 2012   |    comments
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More than 30 men and women are putting their own lives on hold to help their neighbors. Some of the volunteer firefighters have lost their own homes, but continue to fight.

Bob Gann is Chief of Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Dept. Their backyard is ground zero for the High Park Fire.

"It's a monster still," Gann said. "It fights us every day. Nobody has really kind of seen this kind of thing before. This thing won't give us a break. We never expected it to go as fast as it did."

Heat, drought, and a forest full of beetle kill made this mega-fire almost unstoppable.

"This is a hard fire," Gann said. "It's physically taxing."

The Rist Canyon volunteers also never stopped.

When fire threatened the historic Stove Prairie School in Bellvue, one firefighter saw the flames inching closer to her house.

"She went in, said bye to the house, and went to the school," Gann said.

The school survived and so did that firefighter's home. Seven other firefighter's homes were damaged or destroyed.

"They're hesitant to ask for help," Gann said. "But they will be there for their neighbors."

The volunteer firefighters do need help because they haven't been working since the fire broke out. Many are tradesmen who don't make a living if they're not on the job.

"We are looking at what we can do to help our firefighters," Gann said.

In the most devastated area, Whale Rock, Rist Canyon Fire Station #4 burned to the ground.

"A fire station is a fire station," Gann said. "I don't put it at the same level as somebody's house."

Rist Canyon will never look the same in their lifetime.

"In some places it swept through like a blow torch," Gann said. "You drive into those areas and every house is flat. Other places you'll be in a green island, and if you don't look up or don't smell, you'll think it's normal," Gann said.

It's those green islands that give them hope and strength to keep fighting.

"They're still working it," Gann said. "And it's a pretty amazing thing actually."

Rist Canyon doesn't benefit from tax funds, as it is not a tax district. It relies soley on donations.

If you'd like to help the firefighters, you can make a tax deductible donation via PayPal on their website.

People who want to help the firefighters directly, should mark their contributions to the attention "Fire Fighter's lost wages fund."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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