Firefighter Luke Newton and Firefighter Austin Mason recently were deployed to the Beaver Creek ICP in Hailey, Idaho on August 17th, 2013. The had recently received their training/certifications with the Chilhowie Fire Department in Virginia. I work along side of these brothers at my volunteer department in my hometown. While there isn’t anything that I hate more than fighting brush fires, I have a respect for those that do. Many parts of the country get destroyed each year due to wildland fires, and for the first time, I have known several brothers on the front lines. This was Newton and Mason’s first deployment and introduction to the real deal.
I asked Newton to summarize a statement of some of the work they completed while working in Idaho. They were part of the Virginia IA-II Crew C-74. This is what he had to say:
The first 4 days we set up an 1.5″ hoselay over a mile in distance that included: a pond on one end, a dammed up creek on the other, and a drop tank at the top of the mtn; Also: over 40 sprinklers, 12 attack lines, 7 Mark III Pumps, and 20 Firefighters with GPS coordinates on every feature of the line. The line was carved up one side of a mountain and down the other with a D8 dozer preceded by a hotshot crew clearing an 18′ wide path with chainsaws. Day 4 was tear down and rehab. The line was set up for structural protection in heavy timbers around Alec Baldwin’s Aunts house. Sikorsky Sky Cranes, DC-10 Air Tankers, Beechcraft Fire Tac, Bell 407 medic and bucket drops were flying overhead constantly the first week. After that, we were assigned to mop-up, rehab, then had to chip all the brush and trees the hotshots cut down to build fire lines. We were demobilized on the 30th of august after 12 days on the incident. Showers, hot meals, real toilets, air conditioning, the ability to charge your phone, and the like were of short supply, and I now have a far greater appreciation for the daily luxuries that are unheard of in fire camps across the country. The weather was the driest and windiest that I have ever became accustomed to living in. Temps would drop into the upper 30’s at night and rise into the lower 90’s during the day. 05:00 wake ups are extremely difficult when you get in your tent at 23:00 the night before and temps in the morning near freezing. We worked 16 hr shifts, 0600-2230; Taking 30 min for lunch. Walking around on the fire line would provoke dust clouds and coat the upper respiratory system with a wonderful talcom powder textured dirt/sand/dust, blowing my nose would produce either a nose bleed or a Kleenex full of black tar snot. Im on a AD list at the moment and Virginia is organizing another crew for another western detail.
Firefighters Newton and Mason returned to the area on September 2nd, 2013. They were welcomed back by our brothers and sisters of the FD. They continued to be in my thoughts and prayers throughout their deployment, and luckily, they both returned home safely. We still have a brother, Eric Sweat, from CFD that is currently out west battling the Rim Fire. The latest news was reporting that full containment is not expected until September 20th. Sweat has had more limited contact during his deployment, so let us all remember him as he continues to fight the fight. It is definitely a different beast that they battled/are battling out there.