Thursday, January 17, 2008

Summit Fire '06!

Summit Fire, this was what most helitack crewmembers (and firefighters alike) live for... I thought I might share an entire page on this incident alone... It had all of the elements that one might hope for when the fire bell rings...

The fire was reported to dispatch by Zion Helitack (among others I assume). We spotted it just North of Cedar City on the East side of I-15. At the time we made a judgement call that it must be threatening homes based on the location of the smoke column. It took dispatch a little while to say launch... Side Note; haven't we all been upset about this at one time or another... dispatch has a reported fire, we know the thing is going to town, and yet that is the problem. If it is anywhere near an incorporated city than we better validate ownership prior to launching expensive resources. It is the same old question... launch the resources in order to keep the fire small and save dollars, or wait and see if the resources are needed before launching in order to save dollars (hoping it doesn't get big and out of hand). If it does get big and out of hand then we will claim that no amount of resources would have stopped it, and that will make us feel better about not making the other choice... It was only a 5 minute flight and we were off the ground in about 5 minutes (we had obviously been waiting for the call to launch). When we arrive on scene it was a total madhouse. There seemed to be volunteer engines everywhere, and the state warden was strugling to coordinate resources over the radio. Federal engines were just arriving, and the radio call for more air support was being broadcast as we looked for a landing area. We landed in a field of light grass that was approximately 50 yards off the fires edge. There was no clear head on this fire... but I knew that we needed to get the bucket on the ship and start preparations to defend the home that was sitting approximately 100 yards off the fires flank. Helicopter launched, we carried the remaining gear to the road coming into the residence. I turned around to see that where we had just landed the ship was consumed in a 15 foot wall of flame. I was certain that everyone on the fire had their hands full... I looked over to Ice and said "pop a fusee, were going to light off the road". I won't say that we single handedly stopped the fire from taking out the house, but in a combined effort the house was saved. The remaining helitack arived shortly after our backfire, and set up a close helibase. I requested those not needed at the Helibase to follow the line up to where we were. By now the heavy airtankers were buzzing overhead and Helitanker 718 had arrived on scene. A request to drive the smokejumpers (located in Cedar City) out to the fire was made... boy they didn't seem to like the fact that 16 of them would drive to the fire. Knowing many of them well, however, I think the consensus was that getting on the fire would have been better if they had jumped but just getting there was good. The fire at this point was several hundered acres and cranking in the P/J. We went to work... It was a lot of work, that lasted well into the night. It was a great fire that allowed all of us a chance to do what we signed up to do... the pictures included are all of the Summitt Fire '06... it is a fire that we look back upon as a success for Zion Helitack (and others who fought that day). You would be hard pressed not to hear a story about the Summitt Fire, if you were to sit down and listen to war stories told by Zion veterans...

I can't wait until the next bragable fire we have the enjoyment of fighting... Cheers,

3 comments:

M.L. said...

Often times people reflect back on the extremely large fires as memorable or success stories in their career... I think differently. It is the smaller fires caught that are success stories! Just like the Summit Fire, I believe the final acreage was approximately 400.

M.L. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill Gabbert said...

You have a great blog! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

I hope you don't mind that I put the photo of the P-3 on my blog at http://wildfiretoday.blogspot.com I mentioned your blog, gave you credit and linked to it.