Local firefighters join agencies from coast-to-coast to save homes

Credit: Paul Boehlke / KTVB

Local firefighters join agencies from coast-to-coast to save homes

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 10:44 PM

PINE --  The Elk Complex of fires, the nation's priority number one wildfire incident right now, is burning very close to the fire scar from the 2012 Trinity Ridge Fire, which was the priority number one fire in August last year.

Fire management officials say they are working with hundreds of firefighters from around the country to try to push the fire toward that fire scar to slow down the Elk Fire Complex.

Local Idaho crews work on structure protection in advance of fire

Local crews from cities like Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Pocatello and Mountain Home came in on Monday to help protect homes, cabins and businesses in advance of the approaching flames.

"We've been real busy. Our crews have been pushed real hard but they're still willing to go," Lt. Chuck Van Meer, Mountain Home Fire Department, said.

The Mountain Home Fire Department, made up of many volunteers, sent eight firefighters on Monday. This came after days of working other area wildfires in Elmore County.

"Oh we're proud to be here. It's our backyard, and we're happy to be here," Van Meer said.

Defensive tools designed to minimize damage

On Monday afternoon, Van Meer and the other firefighters worked on putting down defensive tools to help cabins survive the fire if it comes down.

"I feel strongly it'll make it here. I really do," Van Meer said. "A bunch of departments are all getting together and we're hitting every cabin we can. We're prepping it with hose lines, bladders for the water - just trying to give them a chance."

Van Meer and the other men worked to fill huge tubs with water, some of them thousands of gallons. If the fire approaches the Pine cabins, the firefighters will make sure the pumps and sprinklers are running and then wait.

"We'll kind of let the fire come through. We'll make sure we're at a safe distance. As soon as we feel safe to get in here, we will come in here and try to do a mop up and secure the cabins," Van Meer said.

Some structures already lost, many also saved

The measures being used on the cabins and homes have helped structures survive fires in the past with minimized damage.

"These men and women that have been out here doing the structure protection and triage have done a very good job," said Ludie Bond, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist from the Florida Forest Service. "Unfortunately there have been some structures that have been damaged or lost on these fire complexes, but there have been hundreds that have been saved."

Officials confirmed on Monday night that several structures, including at least one home, have been destroyed or damaged, namely in the Fall Creek area. The Elmore County Sheriff's Office plans to tell property owners on Tuesday if they have lost anything.

Crews from as far as Florida working the priority one fire

Bond is an example of one of many fire officials from around the country. The Florida Forest Service has several people working on the Elk Fire Complex because their fire season is earlier in the year.

"So it's a nice family, wildland firefighting, because there's always an opportunity to work with people you've worked with before," Bond said. "Here on this fire, on the Elk Complex Fire, I'm working with information officers I worked with two years ago in Georgia I worked with on the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge."

Firefighters say as this fire rages on, they'll keep coming back and working to save as much as they can.

"The fire's just so big that everybody's going to just put in a lot of extra effort. And everyone's willing to do it," Van Meer said.
 

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