Four Harlan Firefighters returned home this week following a deployment to Idaho to help battle wild fires. Jason Wickizer, Shelby County Emergency Management Operations Officer, said a crew of 4 firefighters, including himself, was called by the forester in Idaho to help with some local fires. He says before reaching Idaho, the crew saw action in Utah at a fire called the Millville fire. “Once we went there, they broke us away and sent us over to Idaho for a fire. We started our travel on the 11th of August and headed to Idaho and we assisted with the initial suppression of the Placer fire that was threatening Idaho City.”
He says the area they were had seen major damage from past fires. “We could see fire scars that took 45 minutes to drive through where you could see no living trees in both directions to the horizon. So hundreds of thousands of acres of trees gone from past fires.”
Along with Wickizer, Harlan Firefighters Chad Kroger, Brent Kiesel went out to Idaho and Andrea Syrstad was deployed to Alaska to work on fires as a paramedic. Wickizer says all the members who were deployed had the same training except Syrstad has paramedic training. “She has responded out as a paramedic twice and then she went out and assisted on Hurricane Sandy as a type two firefighter. Yes she has those paramedic skills and there sought after.”
He says one other member of the Harlan Fire Department is still out on deployment. “That’s Jordan Saunders and he is out in Montana for a fire. He is qualified as a fire fighter one trainee. He was working with a sawyer, so using a chainsaw and falling trees on a fire for a twenty person type 2 IA crew out there.”
Wickizer said the lack of communication; clean clothes and missing his family are the most difficult things while out on the mission. All the firefighters out on deployment are gaining quite the experience which he says really benefits the department when they return. “So when you look at the experiences they get, if we are ever caught off or deal with a devastating event, these folks will have experience in something similar and put those skills to use to benefit the residents of Shelby County.”
Wickizer’s crew, minus Saunders, was out west for 18 days.