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MHAFB fire department's Type 4 engine.
A Type 4 Engine currently on loan from the Idaho Bureau of Land Management, Boise district, is parked inside Fire Station One July 3, 2012, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. This type of engine uses low pressure and low volumes of water in order to contain and eliminate blazes unique to the local area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)
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Agreement with BLM helps CE Airmen combat wildfires, keep base safe

Posted 7/5/2012   Updated 7/5/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/5/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho  -- The 366th Civil Engineering Squadron fire department and the Idaho Bureau of Land Management, Boise district, have a unique agreement allowing the base to borrow a specific BLM heavy duty fire engine throughout fire season.

Historically, the largest threat to MHAFB is high winds which cause blazes to spread very rapidly during peak wildfire months.

"Typically, our fire season here is mid-May to mid-October," said Daniel Hawkins, 366th Civil Engineering Squadron assistant chief of fire department operations. "Through a mutual-aid agreement with Boise BLM, we borrow a Type 4 Engine and are responsible for all maintenance and upkeep required for the vehicle.

"In the past, and currently in Colorado, several wildfires have directly threatened many bases and their facilities," he continued.

The "super fire" in Colorado raged for days by feeding off parched terrain and forcing tens of thousands from their homes and businesses. The U. S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., evacuated more than 2,100 Airmen and their families June 27 due to the fire. The residents returned a few days later.

"The fire affecting the Academy is terribly sad and in many ways similar to some we recently fought in Mountain Home," stated Hawkins. "We have multiple plans and defensive measures in place in case this kind of emergency situation occurs here.

"As firefighters, we will respond with an offensive approach to any fire threatening base," he continued.

A mixture of cheat grass and sage brush are abundant in the MHAFB area, which according to one fire department official enables fires to burn hot and fast.

"The local vegetation feeds wildfires, and we are responsible for protecting 133,056 acres on and off the base proper from devastating damage and loss," said Jeff Wagner, 366th CES deputy fire chief. "We currently have 69 personnel who utilize weather impact studies, training exercises and other resources like the BLM engine in order to prevent, and when necessary, eliminate wildfires, 24-hours a day, 365-days a year."

The engine is specifically designed to assist firefighters in combating the blazes throughout the Treasure Valley.

"Our normal engines utilize large volumes of water extremely quickly in order to put out aircraft or building fires effectively," said Hawkins. "However, wildfires local to this area require low pressure and low volumes of water in order to contain and eliminate blazes.

"Our offensively combative attack would be very limited without having this specific BLM engine as an asset to the fire department," he continued.

In 2010 and 2011, the MHAFB fire department responded to 22 wildland fires throughout the local area.

"Many fires generally come from the highway areas," said Hawkins. "This could be due to people throwing cigarettes out the window, sparks caused by dragging chains or losing tires and accidents caused during inclement weather."

Hawkins said regardless of the catalyst, they stand ready to protect the base, its resources and the local community from any wildfire threat.



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