Waiting Is Part Of Fighting Complex Wildfires For Utah Task Force 1

Nov 15, 2018, 7:58 AM | Updated: 8:38 am

CAMARILLO, Calif. – It turns out there is a lot of waiting when there are a lot of fire crews assigned to a large, complex wildfire.

Utah Task Force 1 found that out when they were assigned to the Woolsey Fire burning near Malibu in Southern California.

“Absolutely, when you have this many moving parts to an incident with such complexities as values at risk and lives at risk, it takes a minute for the overhead and the leadership to formulate their plan,” said Adam Halsey, who is a firefighter with Unified Fire Authority.

Utah Task Force 1 is made up of the Salt Lake City Fire Department, Unified Fire Authority, West Valley City Fire Department, and the Uintah City Fire Department.

Morning Briefing

Morning Briefing

They arrived in California Monday.

Tuesday morning, the team started in the staging area near Camarillo, which means they were waiting for Fire Incident Commanders to give them an assignment on the fire.

When fire crews are in staging, they have to be ready to go at any minute.

At about 9:30 a.m., the first call for help came.

They were sent to Simi Valley to check out what was believed to be a new fire, but when they arrived nothing was found.

It appeared to have been a false call.

So, the team was reassigned back to staging to wait for another assignment on the big Woolsey Fire.

Unified Fire Authority firefighter

Unified Fire Authority firefighter

“As we’re their chess pieces, we sometimes have to be patient and waiting for the order to march and move, so we don’t go to the wrong place or negatively impact the plan they have that we might not be aware of,” said Halsey, who has been fighting wildfires long enough to know waiting is part of the game.

Of course, the firefighters want to fight the fires.

That’s why they volunteered to come to California.

However, they also know it’s just as important to be ready to replace other crews as necessary.

“A lot of the times, we get to places real quick and we kind of stick around and wait to find a spot to plug us in,” said Chris Willden, who is with the Uintah City Fire Department.

Sticking around also gives an opportunity for the community to say thank you in person.

While waiting on the side of the road in Westlake Village for an assignment, children in the area approached Utah’s firefighters and offered them pancakes.


Kids offering pancakes

Kids offering pancakes

“Oh, these are good ones. They’re already buttered, too,” said one of the firefighters as soon as he took a bite.

“Thank you, buddy,” he said.

Even 9-year-olds know fighting wildfires is a tough job.

“We just wanted to say thank you. I think it’s pretty cool. They risk their lives to do it and it’s good,” said 9-year-old Marco Mehrvarz.

Seeing the support from the community is a reminder of why many of these firefighters volunteered to go to California.

They know help is needed and it matters.

“For those little kids that just came up, made us a bunch of pancakes and stuff, you really do get to see that you make a difference in people’s lives,” Willden said.

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Waiting Is Part Of Fighting Complex Wildfires For Utah Task Force 1