The gates to Pingree Park, CSUs mountain campus, were locked as the last of the staff left on June 12 following evacuation orders from the Larimer County Sheriff. The gates re-opened three days later on June 15 when the High Park Fire Incident Command Center asked the CSU Public Safety Team if the Pingree Park campus could be used as a “spike” camp to help fight the growing High Park Fire.
The spike camp is a secondary fire camp providing firefighting crews with fast, direct access to the Fire. The Pingree valley has been labeled a safe zone due to a natural fire line around the mountain campus created by a 1994 wildfire. The High Park Fire, now over 83,205 acres, has 2,037 fire personnel working to increase the 45 percent containment. Many of these firefighters commute from Fort Collins to the fire lines every day, which takes two to three hours. A spike camp at Pingree Park cuts the distance to the fire lines down to minutes.
There are currently four Pingree Park professional staff members and 18 seasonal and student staff members who have volunteered to return to the campus in order to support the fire crews. They are serving 270 firefighters camping in the valley and another 40 who are using the South Dorm as daytime sleeping accommodations. The firefighters are working around the clock require 6,000 calories a day to keep fighting the Fire.
“The most important thing for all of us is supporting the fire crew, we are helping them do such an important job,” said Pat Rastall, the director of Pingree Park. “Most of us have never done this before so there’s also a sense of adventure and excitement seeing and supporting hot shot crews from around the country.”