COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.- A distant chainsaw roared to life as a crowd of Soldiers wearing hardhats worked tirelessly amongst the ashes of scorched debris and rows upon rows of blackened trees in the Waldo Canyon burn scar, April 2.
More than 30 Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, spent the day out of uniform helping mitigate the remaining threats to nearby communities caused by the Waldo Canyon fire damage at the Flying W Ranch, a former mountain cattle ranch converted into western-style tourist venue in 1953.
"We all raised our hands and said we'd defend these people and these communities that we're a part of," said Capt. Travis Kirkman, chaplain, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Reg., 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div. "I think volunteering is a great way to feel like part of that community."
The Waldo Canyon fire was one of the most devastating fires in recent Colorado history; killing two people and forcing the evacuation of more than 32,000 people. The fire burned 18,247 acres in the Pike National Forest and Colorado Springs area.
On June 26, 2012, the Waldo Canyon fire roared over a nearby ridge of Flying W Ranch at 60 mph; destroying the ranch and 346 homes within the neighboring community of Mountain Shadows.
"Before the fires this was a really nice forested area," said Kirkman, a native of Helena, Montana. "It's nice to see some of the parts of Colorado Springs that have been affected and get out here and do something about it."
This area of the burn scar is now subject to erosion, mud slides and flooding which threaten Colorado Springs' municipal water supply and the neighboring community downstream.
The Soldiers worked closely with members of the Flying W Ranch Foundation, a nonprofit organization based out of Colorado Springs, building log erosion barriers to reduce the risk of flooding and harvesting woody biomass for conversion into bioenergy.
"Everything that we do here really requires teamwork and communication," said Heather Vozzola, volunteer coordinator, Flying W Ranch Foundation. "So having people like Soldiers out here who have those skills helps us get a lot of work done."
Sgt. Max Huston, team leader, Troop C, 2nd Sqdn., 1st Cav. Reg., 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div., said that getting volunteers from his troop was simple.
"It took just one noncommissioned officer to walk into the office and ask who wants to volunteer in the Waldo Canyon cleanup," said Huston, a native of Houston, Texas.
For information on how you can help, please contact the Flying W Ranch Foundation at 719-598-4000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.