Fire Center Tour- Part 2

Author- Deborah Pfingston, Vice-Chairman, M.ed

Part Two of my Fire Center series - "I want to be a helicopter pilot" 

I love helicopters. There is just something about them that is fascinating to me.  Fixed wing pilots please do not take offensive, it is just they are so cool.  I even love the sound that they make.  If I am near a military base, I love running outside to see what is going over head.  As we walk out of the building we pass all different types of supplies, a picnic table, several tanks of concentrated retardant (which according to their website is capable of pumping over 100,000 gallons into airplane tankers daily, yes DAILY), and a small plane staged at the center ready to be used at any moment. Out a small gate to the heli-pad.  The helicopter is bright yellow with black stripes, reminds me of a huge, fast bumblebee. It is immaculate. It made me think of times, when I was younger, and I would watch firefighters always washing their fire trucks. Structure firefighter trucks are always so clean and shiny. I've seen hotshot buggies look mighty dirty! But this helicopter is a racecar in the air. Sleek, small, and maneuverable, UGH it looks like freakin' fun. What is amazing about it is that, yes, it looks like fun, but it is used to do such amazingly hard work.  The doors are open, so I see inside.  I am invited to sit in the pilot seat, I am ecstatic. Pete Gordon snaps a few shots that I can send to family and share with you. I am told of its maneuverability and its power. I am shown what it carries in a wire supply basket. These men are ready to go at a moment's notice and so is this machine.  

After some wonderful discussions we are heading back into the building. Now, I am shown the offices that I expected to see. A door opens, I am standing in a work out room. I love the fact that these crews want to remain physically fit. I think back to 'Steed’s Dojo' at Station Seven, even the Granite Mountain Hotshots had their gym to work-out. Physical fitness to these crews is extremely important. They want to make sure that their minds and bodies are ready for fire season.

Down the hall I enter the Fire Cache.  This warehouse is over 20,000 square feet!  I've been in caches before, but they've only been storerooms or a glorified closet. Not this place it has everything. I am told that it has enough emergency supplies for 2,500 personnel. You name it: big pumpkins ready to hold water, shovels, MREs, any tool that the wildland community needs are there, along with everything that the tool might need. There are boxes from oil, that the machines need, nomex pants & shirts that the crews need, oh and yurts too!  I am told how it is one storehouse of 11 national emergency incident supply centers across the nation. What could be cooler than that - this...  There are these semitruck trailers in the parking lot ready to roll at any moment. The staff that works at the Fire Cache, packs the trailer, delivers the trailer, sets up the items needed and brings it all home when they are done. When it returns to the supply center the items are cleaned and examined. If anything needs to be repaired, they are refurbished right there on site. No throwing away government money here.  As quoted from their website. "As materials are returned from the field, they are checked, cleaned, repaired, recycled or replaced, in preparation for the next incident."  As I stand in the middle of this vast warehouse of hard-working people I realize the local community, our state and the nation need to know about this amazing place.  I decide I need to write about this experience. 

The people I meet are respectful and ready to share what they do.  There is one woman who was in the process of moving boxes, chairs and other items from one point in the building to another.  Every time we passed her I could hear someone asking if she needed help.  These people seem to love their jobs, are very proud of what they do and are humble too.  Should I look to see if there is a job opening?!  Not today.  Today I am off and running but touch back.  Part Three is going to be amazing.  Why do I say that, because up the stairs of the fire center you enter a whole different world.