RCVFD: Rescue route being established via Pennock Pass

Rist Canyon VFD Chief Bob Gann sent a community alert this afternoon with Buckhorn, Rist Canyon and Stove Prairie updates.

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RCVFD Community Alert:

First – Roads. This is a big deal. The damage to our road system is horrific – and will take months if not years to repair.
The amount of work to be done exceeds both the time and resources we have. Materials are becoming a problem – a 40 ft long, 6 ft diameter culvert is not an “off the shelf” item. Even with the best intentions – there is not enough time to complete work before winter.

• Case in point – those of you who traveled Rist Canyon during the culvert replacement project see just how hard this is. The work that needs to be done now is far greater. What you see here is my understanding of what is the plan. Of course – if we can exceed it – and do more – we will. But promises of work that realistically cannot be done are worthless.

Also note – I’ve watched the road and bridge crews working very hard in very tough and dangerous conditions. They repair a section – it is damaged – they repair it – it is damaged – over and over again. They are working in dangerous conditions and they are doing it with cars around that normally would not be allowed. This slows them down – so the more we can help by minimizing traffic – the faster they can do their work. Also, understand there is only so much they (or anyone) can do.

Give them a smile and a thumbs up! They deserve it.

Rist Canyon Road
• The top priority for Road and Bridge (R&B) in our area is Rist Canyon Road. R&B is working hard to keep that road passable and return it to a safe condition for normal traffic. You notice, I say return it to a safe condition for normal traffic. We need to minimize traffic.
• Rist Canyon Road is damaged- when you drive on it know you are not on a normal road and you must be extraordinarily careful.
• Rist Canyon road has multiple defects. Inattentive driving – going too fast – passing – these things put you at risk and put the road crews at risk.
• In any other situation – Rist Canyon Road would be fully closed – no traffic allowed.
• In these extraordinary conditions, Rist Canyon is the only viable access for people who need supplies and need to work on recovery.
• Traffic should be limited to residents or those directly supporting residents.
• Please carpool and consolidate trips.
• Please no large trailers if you can help it till repairs are ‘complete’.
• Use extreme caution and SLOW down.
• Repairs will make the road safe for normal traffic, but it will not be smooth and shoulders will be minimal.

Stove Prairie Road
Next on the list is Stove Prairie from the intersection of the Buckhorn (address 0) to the last residence (7100 block).
• Beyond 7114 the road will not be worked on any time soon.
• Repairs will bring the road to safe, but not nice, conditions.
• I would not expect to be able to drive to the Poudre any time soon.

Buckhorn Canyon
This is the tough one. Much of the Buckhorn road has been destroyed. This is not a repair – it is a rebuild.
• The Buckhorn will be repaired and managed between Lightening Ridge and Wildsong.
• Anything below Lightening Ridge and above Wildsong is not on the list.
• I think there may be some efforts to extend the top end (Wildsong area) to the last couple of residences – but that is unclear.

Pingree Park/Pennock Pass Road
An access mission yesterday by RCVFD and rescue resources was able to push up Pingree and over Pennock yesterday. They identified two problem areas between the Poudre and the Buckhorn Ranger Station – and an additional access into Crystal Mountain.
• Yesterday and today a hotshot crew and the Larimer Fuels crew returned to the area and improved the road by placing logs across the ‘mud bog’ near Monument Gulch. They then pushed on to another soft spot on Pennock to improve that.
• The goal is to improve Pennock and Pingree to the level that they can be used as an evacuation route for the Buckhorn and Crystal Mt.
• I expect this emergency evacuation/egress route to be viable in a day or two. We will let you know when you can head out here.
• We hope this route will be sufficient for evacuating livestock as well as people. It is important to note – the efforts are to create an evacuation route for the Buckhorn.
• This is not a long term access.
• Repairs are temporary. They should allow exit of most vehicles, maybe even trailers, but they will not last.
• Pennock Pass will not be arbitrarily ‘closed’ on some date – but when the snow flies, it will not be plowed or maintained. You should not view this route as a viable winter route.

Evacuations
I’m going to speak about 4 areas:
• Upper Buckhorn: Basically above Crystal Mt and areas accessed by that.
• Crystal Mt: Areas accessed by Crystal Mt Road.
• Mid Buckhorn – basically above mile 22 and below Crystal Mt.
• Lower Buckhorn – Ohana way and below.

Upper Buckhorn
If you are in the upper Buckhorn – You need to evacuate.
• For immediate evac, we can use air resources at Buckhorn Ranger Station.
• With the work on the Pingree Park/Pennock Pass route, we hope to allow evacuation of livestock. This must occur over the next couple weeks.
• If you stay in the Upper Buckhorn Area, you will be isolated for the winter.

Crystal Mountain
If you are in the Crystal Mt area – You need to evacuate.
• For immediate evac – we can use aircraft.
• If you have livestock – if you can herd/walk them to the upper Buckhorn – we can use the Pennock/Pingree route.
• It is unlikely the route opened yesterday from the Buckhorn to Crystal Mt will work for larger vehicles. If you stay in the Crystal Mt area, you will be isolated for the winter.
• The expert offroad personnel who opened that route rated it as a 6-7 on 10 for Jeeps and impassible for larger vehicles.
• We are evaluating if this road can be improved.

Mid Buckhorn
If you are in this area – You need to evacuate.
• Right now we have no viable access for this area except aircraft.
• We have no ground options to offer.

Lower Buckhorn:
If you are in this area – You need to evacuate.
• I realize there are some options for people in this area. If the crossing at Wildsong can be repaired, then some people have ingress/egress. It is not good, but it is not as isolated as other areas.
• However, consider that access will likely be cross country, in the winter, in snow over non-maintained roads.
• My recommendation is to evacuate.
• Certainly, if you have a medical condition, you need to evacuate.

When you evacuate
• You will go to an evac center. In Fort Collins, that is Timberline Church.
• Once there you can take advantage of recovery centers – food, clothing, etc. is available.
• Short term housing is available immediately.
• Longer term housing is being worked on – I do not have full information at this time.
• Livestock/animals will go to the Ranch for the time being.

Final note
The thing that motivates a volunteer fire fighter is helping people. Whether it is a minor event or injury, or a major disaster like this one, we want to help. I would love to say we will ‘figure out a way’ to support people who want to remain in remote locations – but that would be dishonest and the opposite of helping. We will do what we can – and in an emergency – we risk life and limb to help.
• But if you choose to remain in a remote, inaccessible area, please consider the consequences.
• A please don’t think “I’ll try it for a month or two and see how it goes.” In a month or two – we will not have the rescue resources we have today. We will not have helicopters to fly in an evacuate you. We will not have specialized search and rescue teams.

With deepest regards,
Bob Gann
Fire Chief, RCVFD

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