National Guard protects fellow soldier's home, community
The East Peak Fire continued to burn out of control Friday. Its size and unpredictability made it a top priority for firefighting efforts as multiple fires stretch resources thin across the state.
The National Guard was deployed to the East Peak Fire. Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman said the soldiers will oversee roadblocks and help firefighters fight flames.
The 188th Forward Support Company is based in Pueblo. They arrived in Walsenburg Friday morning.
Fire evacuee Jason Mercier watched trucks loaded with guard troops roll into town. Mercier is also a member of the company.
"It was a little weird. Usually when we go on a mission or we go on training, I'm in the vehicle with them," said Mercier.
The flames forced Mercier and his family to evacuate. Mercier and his wife, Hannah, have two young girls and a baby boy.
He's waiting out the fire at the Red Cross temporary shelter at Walsenburg's John Mall High School.
He offered to join his comrades.
"They said, 'Go ahead. Stay with your family.'"
He decided to bring the soldiers his own reinforcements.
"When the Red Cross found out my unit was here, they said, 'We got a surplus of Pepsi so go ahead and take it up to them,'" said Mercier.
Mercier wants to help them in any way he can.
"Since I'm not out there on mission with them, it feels like I can support them in some fashion," said Mercier.
His home is still standing but he is worried.
"We've gone day number two in the fire and the house is still there," said Mercier. "But Huerfano County being as popular with the winds as we are, it's just unpredictable. The winds change every hour; intensity chances so it's up to nature."
He is happy to see his comrades, but he also knows the implications of their deployment.
"In order for the National Guard to be activated, it's going to be a significant event. With that said, that means there is a significant threat to the community," said Mercier. "But at the same, it's comforting to know the National Guard is here, especially the 188th."
The fire has burned 9,100 acres since it broke out Wednesday afternoon.
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