Friday, June 19, 2009

IDL Screws Timberlake Fire District

Excerpt from Timberlake Fire District Web Site:

At 4:20 PM on Thursday, June 4, 2009, the Timberlake Fire Protection District was dispatched to a "smoke check" in Cape Horn Estates. A boater in Lake Pend Oreille called 9-1-1 to report what he suspected to be an out of control brush fire. We respond to a lot of "smoke checks" throughout the year, but this one turned out to be a "working brush fire." Idaho Department of Lands was requested immediately along with a helicopter due to the terrain. The helicopter was not available, but will begin its contract on July 1 along with the Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) based out of Coeur d'Alene.

The fire was burning approximately 400 feet north of Glacier Road in the National Forest Service land. The initial size was 300 feet long by 60 feet deep. The terrain was extremely steep and rocky with the fire burning at the base of cliffs. The fire eventually made it to the top of the cliffs and burned about 1 acre of grass and light brush. Luckily, we were able to contain the fire to 2 acres and get hose lines around the perimeter. We were also fortunate that the winds were calm since they had been blowing at 5-10 miles per hour for the past few days.

Timberlake Fire responded with 2 brush trucks, one tender, one engine, and one chief. The Timberlake Fire Boat was also deployed on the lake to provide us with a better perspective of the scene and alert for any safety issues. Northern Lakes Fire Protection District assisted with a brush truck and Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) sent 9 personnel with 2 engines. Once the fire was contained, the scene was turned over to IDL and a Timberlake Brush truck remained on scene for support. Since it was not safe to continue mopping up after dark, IDL and Timberlake Fire will be back in the morning to check on the fire and ensure it is completely out. A second smaller fire was also burning 150 feet below the main fire.

The fire is deemed suspicious at this time. For more information contact Fire Chief Jack Krill at or 208-683-3333.

Today's revelation from IDL:

"Something I just learned about the fire we had in Cape Horn Estates off Glacier Loop. Since it was all outside of the fire district boundary in USFS land (except for that one stump) and since IDL did not request our response, they will not reimburse us for the cost of anything except B651 (and that will only be the couple of hours they requested B651 stay). Therefore, if we respond to any fire and determine that it is outside of our district boundary and outside of a neighboring fire district boundary which we have a mutual/automatic aid agreement with, do not initiate suppression action. "Notify IDL and return to quarters." (The amount billed to the IDL was $3713.33. Fighting fires is not cheap. Herb's aside)

"I have requested that IDL send us something in writing concerning this." (End Chief Krill's E-Mail to the department's firefighters.)

Two clear points that occur to me. One, the reporting party didn't call Timberlake Fire, but 9-1-1. Dispatch called out Timberlake, at which time Chief Krill immediately called in IDL. It must be pointed out that while up slope from nearby homes, it was within 300 feet of some very nice homes, that with an afternoon wind shift, could have been a disaster. By the time IDL arrived, (with one p/u truck) Timberlake had been on the fire for about three hours. At the time Timberlake was relieved at the scene by IDL the fire was essentially out, except a few smoking hot spots, which we are told flared up again the following morning. Local residents informed us that IDL had pulled everyone off of the fire, leaving no fire guard at the scene to monitor the site. With funding at a premium due to the economy slump, It would appear that inspired chickenshit is being applied here, since the money Timberlake used to fight the fire, would have been spent by IDL, not to mention how much more the fire would have spread with the IDL slower response time.


Anonymous said...

Is the Idaho Dept of Lands responsible for paying people to fight fires on federal lands? Just wondering. Where was the US Forest Service??

Bay Views said...

Based on my sources, IDL administrates the fighting of local US Forest Service lands. FS takes over on large fires such as the on between Lakeview and the slide a few years ago. My problem is that the local fire district is told to stay at home, when a fire is burning wild within a few hundred feet of the district boundaries which include the gated community at the end of Cape Horn.

I will get a copy of the law as it pertains to this situation and post as the situation clarifies. Right now, I believe that the Fire department can petition FEMA and get paid anyway. It's to bad that where fire districts commonly have mutual aid plans, this gap is present.