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Boulder County Sheriff's Deputies, dispatcher, share experience responding to Marshall Fire

A few of the deputies that had their body cameras showing their response to the Marshall Fire evacuation efforts shared what they saw, and how they felt that day.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — This week, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office (BSCO) released body camera video of some of their deputies helping evacuate people and animals during the Marshall Fire. 

On Friday, the deputies that released footage from their body camera shared their experiences about what it was like the day of the fire.

“When we got there the fire had engulfed a lot of structures already including a couple of stables and barns that had animals in them," BSCO Deputy Peter Markusen said.

As shown in one of the videos, Markusen and his partner on-duty worked to evacuate animals, specifically horses, from the barn.

>> Below: Animals being evacuated during Marshall Fire by Boulder County deputies

“First stable I came to, we couldn’t get through the gate, I used my patrol vehicle to push the gate open," he said. 

The barn seen in the video was just feet from the fire, according to Markusen. 

“We were able to get them out, right around that time we had volunteers from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office mounted search and rescue patrol show up with horse trailers," he said. “It was certainly a very very scary afternoon. The amount – the speed the fire was moving was astronomical."

Keeping a level head, he said, was key to responding that day. 

“For me it’s get through that minute, that 30 seconds, whatever it is to get through that one task and assign yourself the next task," he said. "And I was terrified that whole day, but this is my job to do. I gotta do it. I’m trained for it. So I’d give myself one task then move on to the next and the next and hopefully make it out of there which we did.”

BCSO Patrol Deputy Elizabeth Cantwell-Wray could be seen rescuing a few dogs through her body camera the day of the fire. 

Before, she was put on patrol in the town of Superior and responded to several calls in the morning before the fire started. Eventually, those calls started coming in. 

“I noticed that the smoke was getting dense and I could see visible flames on my drive – that’s when I made the decision to start evacuating homes immediately in the area within our polygon system," she said. “It started off really smooth at the beginning because at that time we had a little bit more time for the evacuations so I pulled out a roll of yellow tape, carried it with me, and went up to every single door within that polygon that I was evacuating making sure that nobody was home.”

That included knocking on doors, windows, and more to ensure that no one was inside the property, Cantwell-Wray said. 

“The visibility got worse with every door that I went to. I kept a notepad in my hand of homes that I was knocking on and had evacuated, but at that point, I could not even visibly see the notebook in my hand," she said, adding that she took mental note afterward on which houses she responded to.

She said that while driving near 76 and Marshall road, smoke from the flames had drowned much of her visibility, but she saw movement in the distance.

"I wasn’t quite sure what it was, so I parked my vehicle and I saw what looked like at the time a coyote, I wasn’t quite sure what it was but I knew that it was in distress based on the look on it’s face and I knew that they needed to be rescued," Cantwell-Wray said. “At that time there was a vehicle driving opposite direction of me, and I opened up her car door, took one of the dogs put it in her car, asked if it was her dog, which it wasn’t so then I took that dog, put it in my patrol car, and then attempted to and successfully got the other dog in my other vehicle as well.”

She later met up with animal control to handle locating a place for the dogs.

"Just assisting as best as I could, as long as I could," Cantwell-Wray said, recalling that she worked possibly up to 20 hours that day. 

>> Below: Bodycam video captured moments deputies evacuated people, pets, businesses during Marshall Fire

Dispatchers also had a long day when the Marshall Fire started. 

Robert Schimoler, who has been with the Sheriff's Office as a dispatcher for nearly seven years, said that they could receive up to anywhere between 150 and 200 calls on a typical busy day. 

On the day of the fire, he said that they had two people on their shift that answered 380 or 400 calls and had to call in more people to help handle the demand. 

“I’ve been here for a few of our fires, and a few of our other natural disasters – unfortunately Boulder County’s got the experience in that department," he said. “It’s tough – you do your best to handle what is most emergent first and then you go down the list.”

He said that while the day was exhausting, he knew that he had to do what he could to help those calling. 

“I feel horrible that it’s happening. I do the best I can to get the right people somewhere near to give them a hand – get them out of there," Schimoler said. “You have to in this profession I think deal with what’s happening, take a moment to think about it, and then move on and take care of the next you know?”

RELATED: Free sifting services for people who lost homes to Marshall Fire

RELATED: Marshall Fire investigation: Prior controlled burns documented at religious sect’s property


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