The Student Firefighter Association brought John Maclean, author of “The Thirtymile Fire”, to CSU Tuesday night to educate students and community members about his book as well as inherent dangers surrounding wildfires.
Maclean spoke about the history of fire policy, the Thirtymile Fire and the aftermath of the Thirtymile Fire.
The fire took place in 1994 and resulted in the death of four firefighters. It got out of control, Maclean said, because many of the resources needed to fight it were commissioned to larger fires in the area.
Now, due to a recent legislative push of the families of the deceased, the squad-boss who was commissioned to the fire is being charged for four counts of involuntary manslaughter among other things and will go to trial this May.
According to investigative reports, the squad-boss did not communicate effectively with his crew, putting their lives in danger.
Maclean also talked about numerous similarities between the Thirtymile Fire and the South Canyon Fire of 1994, including the lack of resources and even the way some of the firefighters behaved during the fire.
“I think I make people aware (of fire danger) and leave to the fire community how to solve fire policy and leave to the civilian community how to protect their homes,” Maclean said.
While the majority of people that attended Maclean’s speech were members of the firefighter community, the handful of students that attended said it was an important aspect to their education.
“This gives us exposure to different perspectives outside of the university,” said Matt Schiltz, a senior forestry management major. “It let’s us know what’s happening in the real world.”
Maclean said it is important to talk to college students about wildfire dangers because they will be solving the problems in the future and they know about and accept current issues that contribute to wildfires, such as global warming.
“I tell younger people what’s on the agenda and older people what they’ve done,” he said.
Although SFA had been planning the speech since long before the beginning of Colorado’s fire season, Schiltz said that the timing of the event exemplifies the job of a firefighter and makes people realize fires are a powerful natural force.
“The timing is a good reminder of this fire season and the task ahead for firefighters,” said Pete Barry, a member of SFA.
Maclean said it is important to educate people in Colorado about wildfires because more and more are moving to areas with high fire dangers.
“If people move to fire-country with urban attitudes, it can become a dangerous situation,” he said.
“But if they are educated, they could save their lives, their neighbors lives or the woods,” he added.
Senior Reporter Cece Wildeman can be reached at email@example.com.