Colo Battalion Chief Talks About Saving Homes

LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. -- Firefighters from the front lines of the High Park fire described for 7NEWS the intensity of the fire and the efforts to protect homes.

Poudre Fire Authority firefighters spent days protecting structures on the eastern edge of the fire.

"I've been doing this since 1974, and this is probably one of the top two or three fires that I have ever been on as far as fire activity and fire behavior," said Poudre Fire Authority Battalion Chief John Lippert. "It was very impressive, but also very humbling that Mother Nature can do something like that."

Lippert and his firefighters were among the first to respond to the High Park fire. They focused on structure protection.

"You set 'burn outs' around the house and you wait for the fire to come through; you leave, wait for the fire to come through and you go back, and you put out any fires that are still burning around the house, to save it," said Lippert. "That's the kind of exciting part of the job, is when you're staying there and the fire's starting to burn over and around you."

Fire Moving 1 MPH

Firefighters have been in the middle of flames that are moving at one mile per hour.

"It just had a roar to it," said Lippert. "When you have a half a mile wide fire front going through trees and having flames 100 feet in the air and having radiant heat that you can feel a half a mile away, that's a lot."

Lippert said he is proud of what his crews accomplished before the Type One management team took over control of the fire.

"Basically, before they even took the fire over, we had the east front of the fire pretty much secure for them," said Lippert. "At least a couple hundred houses in there that we saved and we only lost one on Sunday night."

He heard concerns about the High Park fire burning throughout the summer. As of Wednesday night, there were more than 1,200 firefighters working the fire on 24-hour shifts. The cost of the fire had reached more than $3 million.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.