Eldorado Forest, Tahoe Basin Firefighting Crew Met with President Obama in Colorado
Edward Ortiz, Sacramento Bee, July 2, 2012It isn't every day you get to fight the nation's largest fire and meet the president. That's what happened to Placerville resident and firefighter Matt McKurtis and other members of the Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin firefighting units of the U.S. Forest Service, who are working the fire line at the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado.
The meeting with the president was captured in a photograph that ran on Saturday's front page of The Bee. The firefighters in the photo were not identified, but their Forest Service colleagues back home recognized them immediately.
"We knew that our firefighters had met the president so we were keeping an eye out to see if the photo would appear anywhere," said Beth Brady, a Forest Service fire prevention specialist at Lake Tahoe.
The Northern California units were involved, with many others, in saving several homes in the Colorado Springs area.
When President Barack Obama, who was visiting the fire, got wind of their heroics, he decided to pay them a visit.
"It happened when we had a little down time and opted to go back in and drive through a neighborhood that we had worked a couple of nights before," McKurtis said Saturday via phone from Colorado Springs. "Secret Service agents found out we were the people that helped save these houses. Initially they said the president was going to pass without stopping. I guess he decided it would be a cool thing to meet us."
McKurtis, who is in one of the Eldorado National Forest units on the scene, got to shake the president's hand and talk with him. "He asked us how we saved the structures, so we gave him the play by play," McKurtis said.
Firefighter David DeLeon of the Lake Tahoe unit, who was also fighting the fire, said the work was fast and intense. "It was going from structure to structure and as fast as we could get out and deploy hoses," he said.
For the Lake Tahoe engine unit and the four units from Eldorado fighting the fire – 26 people in all – part of the battle was getting there. They put ...