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Federal Fire

By on Tue 14 Apr 20

Monitoring the Boise National Forest presents some unique challenges with the terrain in the valley versus the forest. For most dispatch to firefighter comms, Treasure Valley users can hear most of the traffic on the UHF-Lo links on Shaw Mountain aka Lucky Peak with the exception of Flight Following which only repeats aircraft – more on that later.

Based near NIFC at the Boise Airport, Boise Dispatch is the primary center for wildland response for state and federal resources in this pocket of the state. Vale Dispatch covers the Oregon site of the valley and Payette Dispatch in McCall covers further north. You may hear these other centers on the Flight Follow UHF-Lo link once aircraft travel outside of Boise Dispatch’s range.

In Ada and Canyon Counties, the city and county fire units are typically the first out responders for initial attack of wildfire, regardless of the land ownership. BLM, IDL and USFS fire units respond from a number of stations in the valley, however, due to distance, may take a while to check on site. If the fire starts or continues to burn in to public land, the state or federal fire units usually take command of the fire once they have their primary units on scene.

A typical fire response from BLM will include a division or battalion chief in a pickup truck, 2-3 Type 3 high ground clearance engines, a water tender, a medium to heavy dozer and an investigator. This fluctuates depending on what resources are available, the location of the fire and the type of terrain they’ll encounter.

A great location to see resource availability is WildCAD for Boise Dispatch.

Handwritten E and O numbers

On larger incidents, an Incident Management Team will order Equipment and Overhead to staff the fire.

Equipment can include fire engines, water tenders, hand crews, showers, portable restrooms, laundry services, caterers and more. This all receive an E number on their windshield and are issued sequentially as they show up to the incident. A food caterer might get a low number like E-4 while a longer incident might see new engines arriving with a number like E-145.

Overhead can include the leadership and support staff like members of the Incident Management Team, local forest support, communication techs and other roles. These typically see an O- number on the windshield and comparatively can be pretty low compared to the Equipment numbering sequence.