exercises help prepare
for real deal
Express Staff Writer
River Valley fire fighting crews got some hands-on experience Saturday
without even seeing or extinguishing a flame.
into action Saturday morning, a crew of wild land firefighters
prepare to suppress an artificially advancing blaze. Express photo by
Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Blaine County municipal
fire crews—seven fire departments in all—converged on Muldoon Canyon
east of Bellevue for a drill that included fighting a massive, imaginary
wildland fire that ripped through sagebrush, grass and several homes in
the span of about an hour.
fires, when they really occur, are in what firefighters call the urban-wildland
interface, an area where forests or desert mesh with homes and private
automobile fire was supposed to have triggered the imaginary fire in
Muldoon Canyon Saturday. The growing fire, represented by yellow tape,
quickly engulfed the entire canyon, including several homes. Express
photo by Willy Cook
thought it worked really, really well, better than the ones in the past
I have attended," said Wood River Fire and Rescue Capt. Kjell
Elisson, who coordinated this year’s event. "We do it every year,
just to kind of get everybody together, and practice for the
8:30 a.m. Saturday morning, while valley fire crews convened at a vacant
lot in Bellevue for a briefing, a dispatch call arrived for fire
fighting crews to respond to an imaginary automobile engine fire that
had ignited some neighboring grass.
hour, the rapidly spreading fire ¾ simulated by a group of children
deploying yellow crime scene tape ¾ had engulfed the entire canyon, and
all seven fire fighting agencies worked frantically to get things under
land fire fighting crews scrambled Saturday to extinguish an
imaginary fire in Muldoon Canyon east of Bellevue in a drill that
spanned seven fire fighting agencies. The annual exercise helps
firefighters learn to cooperate with other agencies and gain practice
prior to the start of Idaho’s fire season. Express photo by Willy
said the annual drills are intended to ferret out problems before the
multiple agencies are actually trying to work together on a dangerous
and spreading fire. Communication is often among the leading problems,
River Fire and Rescue Capt. Kjell Elisson was the brains behind the
planning of this year’s fire exercise. "We do it every year, just
to kind of get everybody together and practice for the worst."
Express photo by Willy Cook
can get a little frustrating for the incident command to deal with all
the chatter" of seven agencies using multiple radio frequencies and
performing various tasks, he said.
Elisson handed fire fighters red "oh darn" cards that depicted
problems fire fighters might face while fighting a real fire. Flat
tires, dog bites or disillusioned personnel were among the situations
are all things that can really, really happen in those situations,"
Fire Chief Carl Hjelm said the annual multi-agency training drills are
invaluable for all the departments involved. Cooperation and
coordination are imperative to successfully contain a spreading blaze,
Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes, left, and Wood River Fire and Rescue Chief Bart Lassman coordinate the exercise at the incident command post.
by Willy Cook
skills practiced among the agencies are used frequently, too. Last
summer’s blaze on the ridge above Warm Springs was an example, Sun
Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes pointed out.
can get everybody familiar with everybody else’s equipment and
introduce everybody to each other, just hanging out together a little
bit," Carnes said.
gives people a chance to get out in the field without direct supervision
from their usual chief," he added. "It really works well. You
just let people do what they were trained to do."