Fire Center Tour-Part 1

Author- Deborah Pfingston, WFGI Vice-Chairman & Director of Education; M.Ed

           I need to share a story. The other day I had the most amazing surprise tour. I meet with the Prescott National Forest Fuels, Fire and Aviation Staff Officer Pete Gordon at the Prescott Fire Center.  I was just expecting to walk through a building, see a couple of offices, and enjoy a visit with my friend Pete.  Was I wrong! From the moment I arrived and walked through the front door of the Prescott Fire Center I was in awe. Let me give you a little background on this location.

           The Prescott Fire Center can be found at the Prescott airport on the north east side of the runway. According to their website this Center houses, "highly trained, professional staff that coordinates, supports, and assists in the management of interagency, multiagency, and international services deployed to major emergencies such as earthquakes, floods, and wildland fires." This building and its staff are part of the "national emergency response system, this Center combines an Aviation Program, a Zone Incident Coordination and Communication Center (Central West Zone), a National Emergency Incident Supply Center (called the Fire Cache), an Interagency Hotshot Crew, a Helitack Crew, an Air Tanker Base, and a Fire and Emergency Incident Training Program. It is also home to Prescott National Forest's fire operations staff and engines. In addition, the forest lookouts are supervised from this location." Can I now say wow - wow - and wow. This group not only serves the Prescott area, it serves the state of Arizona, the southwest region, the United States, and if need be anywhere in the world.  Are you impressed yet?

           I had better make it clear this is going to be a multipart story. There is no way I can express some of the things I learned, the people that I met, the work they do and this fantastic facility in one writing. This being part one, I would like to title it - 'I don't think I will make my next appointment'. Yes, it's true I had another appointment in one hour. It only took me a couple of minutes to send a quick text, "I'm going to be late."

           The first person I met was a sweet dispatcher (I will not mention names because I do not want to infringe on their privacy).  Crazy thing is I know her!  There she was working hard and then kindly giving me a hug and a T-Shirt for the Fire Center, which I will wear proudly.  Walking into another room, maps of the Prescott National Forest covering the table.  Parts of the Prescott National Forest are under some heavy closures due to extremely dry conditions.  This year is the dryest on record, for as long as records have been kept this year beats them out.  Trust me there is no reward for that.  Three more hard working gracious people to meet, they are the front line of keeping our forests and our community safe.  It was very similar to a small Incident Command. 

           The center houses some great classrooms as well.  In one of those classrooms is a piece of artwork that was presented during the days following June 30, 2013, when we lost the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot (GMIHS) crew.  It is a beautiful piece of metal and it must be at least 12 feet in length & three feet high.  I am terrible with guessing size so forgive me if I am inaccurate.  In the center is the GMIHS logo, circling that logo are belt buckles from every hotshot crew across this nation. The color variations, cutouts, and metalwork are breathtaking. It is the perfect location for this piece. 

           Walking down the hall we run into a helicopter pilot.  Pete confirms that it is OK to take me out to the helipad. Yep - freakin cool. Check back for Part Two!