Part 2: An Unnecessary Death
It was only ten o'clock when we left home after the bear shooting to do some shopping in Pueblo. But we had barely left the mountains for the prairie when my cell phone rang: "This is a CodeRED alert . . ." It was a fire call.
I turned in by the corral at the bottom of Jackson Hill and went tearing back westward. Never mind that all my wildland gear was at home — I could grab a hard hat, gloves, and radio at the station and be well enough ready for what was, I felt in my bones, a bogus alarm.
For the fourth time this month, we had this situation:
1. Someone who is (a) relatively new to the area or (b) mentally and culturally disconnected welcomed the warmer, sunnier weather by building a fire outdoors to burn pruned branches, etc., without bothering to check with the sheriff's dispatcher first. (The sheriff, as fire marshal, has to give the OK for controlled burns.)
2. Someone else, made nervous by all the wildfires of the last few years, calls in the alarm.
After cruising the area of the smoke report with two other firefighters in one of the brush trucks, we stopped at another member's place and discovered him in conversation with his neighbor — the one who had the fire. He had already been made aware of his mistake, so after a little conversation, we put the truck back in the house, and M. and I headed for Pueblo an hour late.
But there was more to come!
Coming home, we hit a roadblock, improvised with the tanker truck utilized by the county coroner's septic tank-pumping business. For some reason, that struck me as hilarious. Who would want to run into that?
A 64-year-old local man was taken into custody for evaluation after an armed standoff with law enforcement officers this afternoon.
A 64-year-old local man was taken into custody for evaluation after an armed standoff with law enforcement officers this afternoon. - See more at: http://www.chieftain.com/news/region/2581206-120/county-armed-chieftain-coleman#sthash.CJNxg6eQ.dpufHe ended up being taken to a hospital — with no shots fired. Amazing. The location was a house by the highway, hence the roadblock.
We had turned around and gone home another way — another fifty miles — and as we approached this area we passed a parade of law enforcement vehicles leaving the scene, even an armored car — it's truly a miracle that they didn't just shoot the house to pieces . . . and start another fire.
After supper, we watched an episode of Justified just to unwind. Watching Timothy Olyphant as Marshal Raylan Givens just seemed like light entertainment.
I just don't get the psychology of the "I'm in my house and will shoot anyone who comes near." On my last newspaper job, I covered such an incident — a man and his dog barricaded in a little frame house in town, me braced against a cop car, wishing that my telephoto lens was bigger than it was, since I was a block away.
Eventually smoke billowed from under the eaves—he had set the place on fire—and the police rushed in. I think the dog got out OK as well.
It is not the same as "suicide by cop" exactly. Like the man yesterday— he gave up, and now he is in Parkview Medical Center mental health unit for the time being.
And a male, age 64 — that seems so typical. I had a certain old Beatles song in my head the rest of the evening.