Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Valley firefighters work in Southwest

Los Alamos, N.M., threatened by blaze

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum firefighter Robbie Englehart takes a break from work on the Wallow Fire in Arizona. Courtesy photo

The skies may be clear of smoke over south-central Idaho, but Wood River Valley firefighters are flying and driving engines to help fight out-of-control blazes that threaten towns in the Southwest.

Three firefighters and one engine from the Hailey Fire Department were deployed last month to fight the Wallow Fire in Arizona.

Ketchum Assistant Fire Chief Robbie Englehart spent two weeks on the fire as a strike team leader and a task force leader. A strike team generally has five engines and is deployed for structure protection. A task force is composed of various combinations of personnel and equipment suited for a particular task.

Englehart saw several towns evacuated.

"It was a great experience. I learned a lot," he said.

The Wallow Fire grew to encompass an area more than 10 times the size of the Castle Rock Fire, which caused evacuations in Blaine County and threatened Bald Mountain and Ketchum in 2007, before crossing into New Mexico. It is now 95 percent contained.

About 1,800 firefighters fought the Castle Rock Fire at a cost of $30 million. More than 4,500 firefighters were working until recently on the Wallow Fire, which has so far cost $105 million.

On Thursday, June 30, Sun Valley Fire Department engine No. 64 left for the Las Conchas Fire, which caused the evacuation of Los Alamos, N.M., last week. Los Alamos, with a population of 11,000, is home to the well-known nuclear laboratory of the same name.

Sun Valley Fire Department Capt. Mal Prior and engine boss Reed Black will spend at least two weeks on the Las Conchas Fire.

"Both these guys have good experience and that is why they are sought after," said Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes. "Our crews worked 28 days straight on the Castle Rock Fire."

The Las Conchas Fire grew by 60,000 acres Thursday.

"It's hot and windy there," Carnes said. "They're expecting thunderstorms, but that could make it worse with lightening."

The Idaho Department of Lands pays for the use of Wood River Valley staff and equipment on out-of-town fires.

Tony Evans:

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