Firefighter's holiday

Maugansville's Keith Hose spent two weeks fighting a Colorado wildfire

Maugansville's Keith Hose spent two weeks fighting a Colorado wildfire

July 24, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Maugansville firefighter Keith Hose describes his tour of duty fighting a Colorado wildfire as a vacation.

"I loved every second of it," Hose said.

Hose, 21, returned last week from Durango, Colo., where he was one of thousands of firefighters who fought the Missionary Ridge forest fire that charred 74,000 acres at San Juan National Park.

"It all blurred into one big 14-day vacation," he said.

Hose worked with a crew of 20 men and women from Maryland who "mopped up" the fire trail by smothering smoldering debris with dirt and using chain saws to remove nearby ignitable trees and brush.

The crew slept in sleeping bags at a high school more than an hour from the fire scene and was bused to the fire areas they were assigned each morning at 6:30 a.m., Hose said.


His group worked in rocky terrain at an altitude of 11,000 feet, which provided great views but gave him headaches and made other firefighters ill, Hose said.

Hose said he worked through it and his days went by quickly. Temperatures typically were a comfortable 70 degrees, which helped, he said.

When the crew returned to the high school each evening, the firefighters occupied their time watching television or, as Hose did, in the gym, swimming or rock climbing, he said.

Pay phones were available and firefighters called home using calling cards, Hose said.

The locals were grateful for their efforts and ran errands for the firefighters, who were not allowed to leave the school in case they were needed, Hose said.

A Maugansville native, Hose said he became interested in firefighting after talking about it with his friend Craig Sipes, a firefighter at the Maugansville Goodwill Fire Co.

Hose joined the fire company three years ago and is now a live-in firefighter at the station.

He decided to combine his love for the outdoors with firefighting and trained to become a wildlife firefighter with the Department of Natural Resources.

Maugansville Chief Phil Ridenour said Hose was an asset to the fire company when more than 600 acres burned at the Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area west of Clear Spring in 2001.

"He shows a lot of initiative," Ridenour said.

Hose is so dedicated to wildlife firefighting that he is one of a few firefighters at Maugansville that keeps his own chain saw at the station, Ridenour said.

"I've always been drawn to wildlife firefighting," Hose said.

After his training, Hose signed up to be sent to fight the forest fires raging in Colorado.

Colorado officials said the fire was 99 percent under control when he left, Hose said.

Hose said he didn't have any near-misses in Colorado and doesn't dwell on the dangers of fighting the wildfire.

Some of the images that stay with him are of the houses burned to their foundations, Hose said.

"There was such devastation. Homes were totaled," he said.

Despite nature's destruction and the grueling work involved in fighting the fire, Hose said he is eager to return.

"I guess you have to be a firefighter to understand," Hose said.

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