Mesa first stop for out-of-state crews arriving to battle Wallow Fire - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Mesa first stop for out-of-state crews arriving to battle Wallow Fire

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Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 4:13 pm

As the massive Wallow fire burns in eastern Arizona, hundreds of firefighters from around the country are making their way here to help.

And their first stop is in Mesa.

The Phoenix Interagency Fire Center's mobilization center is located at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Since efforts ramped up to help fight the Wallow Fire, as well as the Horseshoe Two blaze, more than 20 crews and 16 engines from out of state have been processed at the center. Tuesday night alone, seven crews - with 20 personnel each - will arrive from Kansas, Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, Colorado and other states offering to help.

Crews that arrive from the center are given their supplies, fed and shipped by bus to the various sites, said Helen Graham, deputy fire staff for the Tonto National Forest.

Dolores Garcia, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management who is assisting at the interagency mobilization center, said the facility is also able to fill retardant in fire fighting planes as needed.

"We're continuing to process a lot of out-of-state resources. They've advised us we should expect several more crews or engines to come through," she said Tuesday.

Local East Valley fire crews are also assisting with the efforts. Seven personnel from Mesa, along with an engine and brush truck, went up last weekend, said spokesman Forrest Smith. Chandler sent nine firefighters, along with an engine and brush truck. Four Tempe firefighters are also on the job, assisting frontline crews and trying to protect structures, said Tempe's public information officer Mike Reichling.

Reichling expects to be deployed any day now to meet with about 30 others who will begin flood planning for the areas impacted by the fires.

Similar efforts took place after last year's Schultz Fire near Flagstaff, Reichling said.

"First we had the Schultz Fire, then the Schultz flood. We're anticipating those same situations happening throughout the state because the ground is now eroded," he said. "We're analyzing all those situations. We're planning for those incidents coming up here for the monsoon season."

Reichling said when crews are deployed it's typically for a 14 to 21-day period. They then get five days off before they can be redeployed, he said.

The East Valley firefighters who are being sent to the Arizona-New Mexico border all have state certification for wildland fire fighting in addition to their yearly training and initial training, said Brad Miller, spokesman for the Chandler Fire Department. Then they volunteer to be on-call for situations such as the Wallow Fire, with knowledge they may get a call and must be ready to leave within two hours, he said.

"It is a lot to consider if you do have a family or even if you're single. It takes a certain type of person who can do that," he said. "Our first crew that went up there worked like 36 hours straight. The other one was a 25-hour work period. It's a lot of hard work and they need to be ready for that."

About 10 to 15 percent of Chandler's 200 sworn personnel have wildland fire fighting certification.

For more information about the Arizona fires, see




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