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2:38 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Fire camp resembles makeshift military base

Ken Hedler/The Daily Courier<br>Jim Whittington, an information officer with the Southwest Incident Management Team, tours the Yarnell Hill fire base camp adjoining Model Creek School in Peeples Valley Friday.

Ken Hedler/The Daily Courier<br>Jim Whittington, an information officer with the Southwest Incident Management Team, tours the Yarnell Hill fire base camp adjoining Model Creek School in Peeples Valley Friday.

PEEPLES VALLEY - The fire camp that sprang up next to Model Creek School off Hays Ranch Road in many ways resembles a makeshift military base, or even a mini city.

Firefighters sleep in tents, but they enjoy meals that a catering company supplies, as well as showers.

"It's basically a little city," said Suzanne Flory, a fire information officer with the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin.

She said firefighters do not have the luxury of staying in motels, and she is staying in a tent as well.

Firefighters sleep whenever they can. Flory and public safety officials who arranged a media tour Friday morning advised journalists not to disturb firefighters who are trying to rest.

"We are going to try to be as minimally invasive as we can," said Jim Whittington, an information officer with the Southwest Incident Management Team.

The fire base camp is "basically a little city," Flory said. "It is very much like a military base. It can be created out of nowhere."

She observed stations, or small buildings, where fire crews can wash their hands. Approximately 600 people are staying at the camp.

Water for mobile showers is being supplied by AAA Emergency Services & Mobile Showers. It is not affiliated with the automobile club, which uses the same initials.

A modular building houses the showers, with the men's showers containing nine stalls.

The tour continued at a stop where firefighters take a lunch break. Firefighters get equipped in the morning with Gatorade or similar drinks to prevent dehydration, Whittington said.

"We don't do energy drinks," he said. "They are a diuretic."

The firefighters are relying on a variety of vendors and other contract services. Generators hummed as the tour continued. The mobile catering division of Bishop Services Inc. in Pahrump, Nev., is supplying food for the firefighters.

"We have a rolling restaurant," said Richard Lefever, the catering company's general manager. He said the company supplied seven semi trucks for the base camp.

Each meal for the firefighters contains eight to 12 ounces of protein, he said, adding his crew consists of about 20 people.

Whittington described contractors as providing critical support for the firefighters, adding local restaurants cannot meet the demand of feeding hundreds of firefighters.

He continued the tour over to the elementary school, where the incident command set up shop. A sign at the green door stated "day sleeper" to discourage anyone from waking up firefighters who have been working odd hours.

The firefighters also are providing comments on a board outside the school to honor the 19 fallen firefighters of the Granite Mountain Hotshots of the Prescott Fire Department who perished this past Sunday.

A map of the fire appears on a wall in back of the school. An accompanying board states the six objectives of the incident command.

Boxes containing sleeping bags appeared to the right of the school, and yellow personal protective equipment sat on tables. A teenage crew from the Arizona Department of Juvenile Correction manned that area.

Also present was Barbara Kelso, a 32-year resident of Yarnell who was walking her poodle mix, Katy. She stepped down from heading the Yarnell Fire Department board in December but remains as a volunteer and was helping out at the incident command at the school.

Kelso, 94, said this is the first wildland fire she has encountered during her longevity in Yarnell, adding she was prepared.

She said she learned her house escaped damage, noting the house was built on rocks. "We also made an effort to clear (the surroundings), so we had defensible space," Kelso said.

"We send out our respect and our appreciation and gratitude for what those men did," she said.