21st CES firefighters respond to grass fire

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A grass fire that burned five square miles just south of the Colorado Springs Airport July 11 sent our firefighters on a scurry to extinguish the blaze.

Peterson firefighters assisted within minutes of initial notification to join three area fire department crews to extinguish the fire just outside of Peterson. The fire was moving toward sensitive instrument landing equipment, and it was moving fast.

When our responders arrived on scene, weather conditions were calm, which allowed firefighters and three senior fire officials to place assets strategically along the perimeter to protect the landing equipment. However, as the response developed, conditions changed; flames were high and the smoke was casting a thick gloom over the area.

Fearing for personal property and lives, local residents began watering homes and lawns in an attempt to weaken the blaze if it grew to reach their homes. Fortunately, our team of firefighters contributed to preventing the flames from migrating to the residential area. I'm sure the residents are thankful for your unyielding persistence in keeping them out of harm's way.

Our team of firefighters responded with confidence, determination and a focus on their mission. After more than three hours spent containing the blaze, there were fortunately no injuries or structures lost.

This was an obvious culmination of lots of training and teamwork to orchestrate such a cohesive success in working jointly with 10 local emergency response units to fight this wildfire. The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron personnel demonstrated the utmost professionalism and competence, a clear example of why they are the best small unit civil engineer squadron in the Air Force. My thanks to Cindy Litteral, our deputy fire chief, and the 22 firefighters who played such a vital role in containing this fire; your actions were phenomenal and have not gone unnoticed.

Other key events from this past week were the activation of the new 21st Force Support Squadron and the 721st Communications Squadron change of command. Over the next few weeks, we'll complete a pretty significant leadership transition at the group and squadron levels. I want to wish all a sincere welcome to our new team and bid a farewell for those departing the Knights. I'm sure you will all look back on your tours at Peterson with fondness, yet look toward the future with promise. It has been an honor to serve with you all.

The wing will lose a tremendous leadership team as Col. Scott Shepherd and his wife Tracy begin a new chapter in his career as Scott becomes the Air Force Space Command director of staff. Scott and Tracy both had a tremendous impact on this wing; Mollie and I wish you the best. Further, I can't close this week's commentary without welcoming the new 21st Space Wing vice commander, Col. Wayne Monteith, and his wife Gina. Please take a moment to welcome the Monteiths as you see them out and about.

Lastly, I want to thank the hundreds of volunteers for the hard work that went into the planning and support of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo last week. In particular, I would like to thank Senior Master Sgt. Derek Crist and Pat Tubridy for their leadership in coordinating the overall 21st Space Wing involvement and support. I know everyone in the Team Peterson community appreciated your tremendous efforts.