Locals Join Effort To Battle Wildfires

by Stacy Blomquist 

As the dry, western states heat up with extreme temperatures, the need for fire-fighting resources also increases. A plea goes out across the nation for help. The United States Forest Service answers the call for help and mobilizes Wildland firefighting resources by utilizing the Incident Command System (ICS). The ICS is a standardized approach to the command, control, and coordination of emergency response to disasters, such as fire. Twenty local firefighters from three agencies involved in the Incident Command System responded to such a plea and set out for Arizona and the blazing temperatures. Steven Staples, a Kisatchie National Forest employee on the Kisatchie Ranger District in Natchitoches Parish, is serving as Crew Boss of the Initial Attack handcrew that was mobilized. “With the extreme temperatures the desert southwest has currently been experiencing, the forests are dry and the potential for wildfires can occur quickly,” explained Staples. He will lead his handcrew which is comprised of six men from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, one employee of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the other 12 men and one woman from the Kisatchie National Forest, to position themselves and their resources to suppress any fires that may arise. The 20- member interagency crew make up what is known as an Initial Attack handcrew in the ICS. This particular Initial Attack handcrew is highly skilled and qualified to serve in various capacities from serving as incident commanders, chainsaw certified in removing hazardous trees, and fire-fighters. Before each crew member was deployed, they were individually weighed, their gear was weighed and all qualification cards were inspected. In the event a crew member must board a helicopter or a commercial plane during the course of their deployment, they and their gear must be under the required weight limit. “We may be assigned to one area and then quickly move to another part of the state or region as needed. We must be ready for all possible scenarios,” emphasized Staples. The crew will be deployed for a minimum of 18 days, including their travel time.


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