Heroes of the American Wildfire

kids poster
About this time last year, the American Wildfire was billowing smoke and ash throughout Foresthill, Ca and its surrounding communities. The fire was started by human error (read stupidity) on August 10, 2013 and was contained on August 29 – 19+ days of worry and fright for wildlife, firefighters, and residents alike. I was not able to get close enough to the frontlines for photos due to the steep terrain and conditions surrounding the fire. However, since Base Camp and the Incident Command Post were established at various locations in Foresthill, I thought I would try to document what goes on behind the scenes during a major wildfire. What I found was quite frankly overwhelming in size, effort and dedication of all those involved. The American Fire heroes were not only on the frontlines, but in a support capacity as well.

The local, state and national agencies involved in fighting the fire included Cal Fire, California Department of Forestry, California Conservation Corps, California Department of Corrections, Local Fire Departments, Sacramento Fire Department, U.S. Forestry Service, California Interagency Incident Management, California Office of Emergency Services, and the wonderful Hot Shots from various parts of the country.  Private companies involved in the fight provided water tenders, water services, laundry services, food services, and sanitation services just to name a few.
hot shots
The Payson Hotshots from Payson, Arizona – in Foresthill to help fight our fire.

Base Camp:

Base Camp was a small city erected in an industrial area of Foresthill that provided all essential services to the more than 1850 personnel fighting the wildfire.  Three meals a day, campsites, showers, medical services, laundry services, and an area to stage and wash equipment were provided, along with a working warehouse for distribution of supplies.

I found the people working at Base Camp proud to be a part of the fight and eager to show and tell me about the service they provided.

dining hall
The “Dining Hall” was a series of large tents protecting the tables, food and heroes from the elements.

scofield guys
This was the kitchen that provided all the food for Base Camp and Spike Camps.  A great group of guys ready to pose for a picture or two!

spike camp
Spike Camps are smaller camps that are established closer to the front lines. The kitchen personnel at Base Camp created meals for all Spike Camps.  This shows a “box” of rice ready to serve 75 heroes at the Greek Store Spike Camp.

Yes, even laundry services were provided for all personnel. This could easily be someone’s worse nightmare – full laundry bags spilling out the back of the trailer while more than 8 wash machines and dryers are working continuously – Yikes!

This was an area used to wash equipment as the vehicles were headed out to the frontlines.  Not only did personnel spray the front, sides and back of the vehicles, there were sprinklers to wash the underbelly of the equipment as well.  Notice all the hoses and pumps – the water used here was recycled in a very impressive yet simple system.
wash recycle

chain sawsThere was a mobile chainsaw repair shop in Base Camp.

levity And there is always room for a little levity even in a serious situation!

Incident Command:
fire info
Incident Command took over an unused Foresthill School to set up the administration services for the fire. This included Operations, Safety, Call Center, Finance, Mapping, and Planning.

This was the classroom where the resources for day and nighttime firefighting are planned and managed.

The Finance crew not even stopping to pose for a picture!

Church St. Helispot:
infrared copter

A local resident’s property was used as a base for the Infrared Photography helicopter and for VIP landings.   Army General Charles Jacoby flew in on Wednesday, August 21 for a briefing on the fire status.  I was treated to a fly-in of army helicopters that always make a statement!
two helicopters
helicopter landing

General Jacoby and VIPs from Interagency Command and Cal Fire talk to and thank a local resident for the use of his Church St. property during the incident.

This final photo shows two pieces of essential survival tools – a helmet and fire shelter that all heroes carry on the front line.

The fire-scorched trees, of which there were many, are now being logged and put to good use elsewhere. The burned area is attempting to heal itself and before we know it, the scars of the wildfire will only be a memory. Hopefully, this area of the Foresthill Divide and the Tahoe National Forest will rejuvenate and return to its original beauty sooner rather than later.  And to all the heroes on the frontlines and behind the scenes of a wildfire – a big thank you!



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