Fighting Wildland Fires

Pam Boedeker

SaddleBrooke Nature Club had a full house for its January meeting. Robert Rouseau and James Bell, veterans of the Golder Ranch Fire Department, captured our total attention with their first-hand knowledge and experience of fighting wildland fires. Golder Ranch Fire Department plays an important role nationally in both fighting wildland fires and educating others on the best strategy for this dangerous work. Forty-eight Golder Ranch firefighters have trained and continue to earn annual certification as Wildland Members.

Once our monsoon season has begun and Arizona is under less wildfire threat, the Wildland Members can leave the state to help others get wildfires contained. James Bell was away from his Arizona home 111 days last year fighting record-breaking fires. The fires in California are an extreme example of an urgent need for help. There were 35 to 40 trucks there from Arizona. At the height of the fire, California was asking for 100 trucks a day and was grateful for anything on wheels!

For their service Golder Ranch bills the state of Arizona. The state of Arizona then bills the state where the firefighters worked. In places that have been declared Disaster Areas, pay may come from FIMA. As a result, Golder Ranch has paid off its newest $380,000 Type 3 Wildland truck in four years!

Fighting wildfires requires plans, contingency plans and co-operation between the various teams that come together to put out a fire. Robert Rouseau used the term trigger point numerous times. He explained that specific occurrences trigger specific actions. For instance, an escape route for fire fighters is planned and tested to make sure they can get to safety in no more than 20 minutes.

James Bell brought all of his gear to demonstrate what firefighters might wear and carry into a fire zone. No surprise were items like water, jerky, gloves and parts for chainsaws. Also included in these huge backpacks are duct tape, orange panels to give signals to helicopters, cording, pink tape to show the way back to safety, mole skin and first aid items for blistered feet and skin torn by cactus needle, weather gages, pick axes and personal items.

The most dramatic moment was when the men opened an aluminum tent. Holes need to be dug in the ground for their heads in order to breathe. Being in one of those tents was compared to being a potato baking in foil.

We are so fortunate here in SaddleBrooke to have the dedicated and well-trained Golder Ranch Firefighters watching over us and our property. We need to do our part by keeping weeds away from the house and removing trees that hang over the house. Gutters should be clean and a defensible space kept free of debris and plants.

SaddleBrooke Nature Club meets at 4:00 on the second Monday usually in the Coyote Room downstairs at SaddleBrooke One clubhouse.

Occasionally we meet in other locations. Please check our website for meetings, fieldtrips and other information at www.saddlebrookenatureclub.