Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nonprofit Information Technology Disaster Resource Center provides free technology assistance to fire camp

If you use or have used WiFi service, for fire incident business or to say hello to your sweetie, in fire camps for the Okanogan, Chelan, or North Star/Tunk Complexes, you likely have been using the services of a little known national non-profit technology center on wheels. Providing 24-hour nationwide disaster response, the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) is supported 100 percent by volunteer professionals and corporate partners with expertise in many technology disciplines.

You can't miss the five satellite dishes near the Omak Stampede Grounds and the big bus in the background with the multicolored logo. The ITDRC has committed to the Okanogan Complex Incident Command to provide no-cost technical services, including WiFi to the fire camp bases in north central Washington for a 30-day deployment. Their assistance and services supplement those provided by incident IT specialists and contractors.

ITDRC is a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and a trusted resource to emergency-management and disaster-relief organizations across the nation. It delivers no-cost information, communications, and technology (ICT) resources and technical solutions to communities after catastrophic events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods. Most members are trained in Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS) basics.

 ITDRC is the only all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity dedicated to providing emergency communications and technical resources to assist communities affected by disaster within the United States. There are a number of for-profit companies and governmental agencies with similar capabilities. There are also some international relief organizations that provide limited resources, primarily in developing countries. Information Technology Disaster Resource Center

 ITDRC, has responded to six disasters (floods,
 wildfire,tornados) in four states to date in 2015. 

ITDRC's communication center and satellite dishes; all 
equipment including the bus has been donated 
by corporate sponsors.

dishNET is one of ITDRC's
 many socially responsible corporation sponsors. 

Equipment, such as radios, cell phones, computers,
 laptops,and Ipads, loaned to community organizations 
during disasters is tracked on a large whiteboard in
the self-contained 40-foot bus/command center.

ITDRC's mission is to prepare and assist communities with
technology continuity and recovery of information systems
during times of disaster. This is fulfilled through education,
planning and disaster response.
ITDRC provides mobile workspaces for two
communications unit leaders of the Complexes.

Firefighter uses free WiFi service
provided by ITDRC in camp

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fire Camp Trivia

How much food and supplies does it take daily to run a camp supporting 1,800 firefighters working on a large wildfire?  Here are a few statistics from the North Pass Fire (Covelo, CA) in Northern California in 2012:

v    900 lbs meat
v    200 gallons coffee
v    28,800 drinks (water, Gatorade, juice)
v    2,000 pints of milk
v    1,200 breakfasts
v    2,000 bag lunches
v    1,500 dinners
v    587 dozen eggs
v    20,000 AA batteries
v    250 MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
v    5,280 pounds of ice or 754 7-pound bags or 264 20-pound bags
v    600 rolls toilet paper for 150 porta-potties
v    5 mobile sleeping units with 210 beds (42/trailer)
v    300+ loads laundry
v    50 hand washing stations
v    450 showers at three shower trailers
v    24 – 26 miles of fire hose

Photo by Jean Hawthorne
Photo by Jean Hawthorne
Add caption

Photo by Jean HawthornePhoto by Jean Hawthorne

Compiled by Jean Hawthorne, PIO, North Pass Fire, 2012

Thank you notes to firefighters from elementary school children

Yesterday's mail to the Okanogan Fire Camp brought five large manila envelopes brimming with charming and heart-felt thank you notes and artwork from elementary school children at Sunnyside Elementary School in Pullman, Washington.  Some of these messages were shared at the 6 am briefing this morning with approximately 100 firefighters and incident staff.  They were very much appreciated and a wonderful way to start our morning!

They've also been posted on information boards around fire camp where many more firefighters will have a chance to read, photograph, and share them with their loved ones.  Several letters were also given to crews on three fire engines driving home to New Jersey this morning for a keepsake of their experiences on the fires in Washington.

From everyone working on the wildfires in the Okanogan Valley area, thanks so much for caring about and thinking of us!  You've made our week!

Here are just a few examples of the many wonderful cards we received from the students.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Life in Fire Camp


Many valley residents over the past month, since the fires began, have driven past several locations and seen the seas of tents and trailers of fire camps.  These mini-cities within the Okanogan Fairgrounds, Omak Stampede Grounds, and other locations can house up to 2,000 firefighters and incident management team members at one. The Omak Stampede Grounds currently is home to the Okanogan, North Star, and Tunk Block.       

A fire camp is a small city comprised of all the main components you’d find in any town. Sometimes there are more people living in fire camps than some of the towns hosting the camps!  Base camp is set up rapidly in a matter of days.

Basic needs of employees are covered: food, shelter, security, safety, medical assistance, and supplies to get the job done.  Each person brings his or her own tent and sleeping bag or can check them out from Supply.  There is a range of sizes and shapes of tents, trailers, and motorhomes, though tents by far are the preferred housing for crews, who often move from one incident to another during the fire season.  At one point, the Okanogan Complex had firefighters from 32 states and three countries in fire camp.


Port-a-potties, mobile shower units, and mobile caterers provide for daily needs.  Two hot meals and a sack lunch are provided each day.  It takes a lot of resources and food to run a fire camp. 

Tents, yurts, and trailers provide office and work space for a variety of staff:  incident command, safety, information, liaison, human resources, planners, operations, air support, and facilities.  There are also people working in logistics, finance, fire behavior, training, incident meteorology, computer technology, transportation, documentation, personnel, GIS, demobilization, and tracking of resources (crews and equipment).    

Work days run long with a 15-hour shift the norm. Crews, teams, and support personnel can have assignments for up to 21 days before needing to take a day off.  Mornings in camp start early, around 5 am for most people, with a briefing at 6 am to hear the previous day’s accomplishment on the firelines, operational plans for the new day, and safety discussion.  Work days end by 10 pm in order for firefighters to get their much-needed rest to start another 15-hour day in the suppression effort.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Defensive Firing Operations Explained

A firefighter on the Kettle Complex in north central Washington explains the importance of and methods behind a successful firing operation. Crews on the Okanogan Complex have conducted similar burnout operations around the perimeter of the fire over the past couple weeks.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Washington Air & Army National Guard Firefighters
Washington National Guardsmen

Among the many agencies and organizations working on the Okanogan Complex are members of the Washington Air & Army National Guard. Today is the last shift for two 20-person red-card qualified hand crews that have spent the last two weeks helping with the fire-suppression effort. They used hand tools and portable water pumps to knock down flames with dirt or water, and to dig out and extinguish still-burning fuels like roots, peat, and pine needles. Two medics and four Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) members will remain on the Okanogan Complex. TACPs, which are similar to an Army Special Forces unit, are providing support in the communication section as radio specialists. 
Seeing Smoke When the Fire is Largely Contained

When a fire is declared contained, it does not mean that the fire is extinguished or out. Containment signifies that a control line has been completed around the fire, which can be reasonably expected to stop the fire’s spread. Think of a campfire pit or ring with the ground around it scraped down to dirt. If you build your campfire in the ring or pit, you can be reasonably confident that your fire is contained. It’s still a fire—with heat and smoke and flames—but the assumption is that with appropriate action the fire will not spread beyond that dedicated area.

As the high temperature and low humidity result in smoldering areas becoming more active, people near the fire will most certainly see smoke within the perimeter where it hasn’t been seen for several days. This burning activity and smoke will continue to be visible in the interior of the fire until significant rainfall or snow occurs.

The entire fire perimeter is being monitored and patrolled daily by crews and engines. Any fire that threatens the containment lines is being extinguished. In the event that you feel you or your property is immediately threatened please call 911.

Smoke from the Okanogan Complex visible from ICP at Omak stampede grounds. 12 Sept. 2015, 5:45 p.m.