Local firefighters keep busy - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Local firefighters keep busy

Crews have been dispatched to fight blazes all over the West

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 12:15 am | Updated: 12:06 pm, Fri Nov 16, 2012.

While the fire season hasn't been dramatic in North Idaho, many local firefighters and specialists have still been in the thick of summer catastrophe.

The Coeur d'Alene Interagency Dispatch Center has deployed more than 160 employees from the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Lands to help manage wildfires in outside areas, said Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokesman Jason Kirchner.

"Anything big seen in the news, they've been to," Kirchner said. "We've got folks in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and southern Idaho."

The dispatched have included 20-person hand crews, he said, as well as fire engines with crews, fire behavior analysts, logistics personnel and folks who help guide firefighting from the air.

"Lots of different kinds of specialists," Kirchner said.

Some have been assigned to areas for an "initial attack," he said, to prevent new fires from starting.

This kind of dispatch isn't rare, Kirchner said.

"This is what we do every year. That's a huge component of our firefighting mission," he said. "We train up folks locally and they make themselves available to go where they're needed. We know the rest of the nation is going to help us, if we need it."

There isn't anticipation yet of a conflagration in Kootenai County.

Reserve firefighters are held in the area in case of fire, Kirchner said. Only a few small fires have occurred on public land, he noted, which crews had "no problem putting out immediately."

Glenn Lauper, deputy chief with the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department, said the Kootenai County area has stepped up from low to moderate fire danger.

They could jump to high in the next few days, Lauper cautioned.

"(The recent rain) did a couple things. It increased the vegetation," he said. "As we do not have any moisture, those fuels will start to dry out and cure. That puts us into a higher category of fire danger."

Tubbs Hill has been bumped to a very high fire danger level, Lauper added, meaning that fires spark easily and spread rapidly.

"There is no burning, no fireworks allowed," Lauper said for Tubbs, which experienced fires on July 4 and 5.

Local fire districts have also restricted slash burning across the county, Lauper said.

There is no concern of fires from southern Idaho spreading to the area, he added.

Kirchner said he didn't anticipate local fire workers heading home soon.

"We expect to have people deployed deep into the fall," Kirchner said, adding that a significant fire season is still expected in southern California. "We could have folks responding to fires for many more months to come."

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