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21
Aug
2002
  • 08/21/2002
  • WildlandFire.com Team
  • 252 views
  • 0 Comment

Hi Ab,

I’m running the information center for the Northern Rockies geographic area
and we get calls and e-mails from families of firefighters active on
Montana and Northern Idaho fires who are wondering where their family
members are. Right now we have more than 75 large fires burning and 13,750
folks working on firefighting or support across the geographic area. It’s
a huge and efficient machine that moves resources to the area of greatest
need. Therefore, it’s difficult for us to get a non-emergency message to
individuals. Another complicating factor for the firefighters is that
calling home is often not possible early on in fires. Cell phone coverage
is sparse and often fleeting in mountainous country. Having capacity to
recharge a phone may be difficult. In addition, we try to get phones set
up in our fire camps but there are limitations on where phone service is
available, phone companies may be strapped for enough crews to make this
happen quickly when there are so many fires burning. And, often
crewmembers are so tired after a series of long shifts that their priority
has to become getting set up, re-tooled, fed and sleep. And they might
get sent to yet another camp the next day. Of course some of the crews end
up in spike camps.

The reason I write is that I know the good information you and the gang
share on the They Said and Family Said pages and I know how stressful it
can be for the family members left behind. I’m hoping you can once again
share with concerned family members that at best, communications are slim
and it would probably help the families not to expect communications…but
to be happy if they get called. For those interested in fires in the
northern geographic area (Northern Idaho, Montana and North Dakota), we
have a website with all the large fire summaries we update 3 times a day at
www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire/2003fires/index.shtml. This does not have crew
information but at least families can keep track of the latest fire
movement.

I hope that helps folks out.
Paula

Thanks very much for writing in Paula. This crew is good support for each other and they’ve gotten some good pointers from dispatchers and others. The mom who was trying to get a message to her son to call UM got the message to him, thanks to everyone’s help.

Ab

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