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    More than just a command post, ICP serves Camp Fire community

    More than just a command post, ICP serves Camp Fire community

    Photo By Spc. Amy Carle | The Incident Command Post briefing area sits empty between briefing sessions in Chico,...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Amy Carle 

    69th Public Affairs Detachment

    CHICO, Calif. -- “Dear Fire Fighters, Thank you for your service. I want to be one of you. Thank you for risking your life.”

    The simple thank you, written in a childish scrawl, is one of many letters posted on boards around the Blue Ribbon Fairgrounds, in Chico, California. The sentiment is repeated hundreds of times, on cards, drawings and posters. They have been hung on boards and fences throughout the area, which has been converted to the Incident Command Post (ICP) for Camp Fire response efforts.

    These heartfelt notes aren’t the only way the community is turning out to support firefighters and emergency crews. Every morning, a coffee company parks a food truck in front of the Information Center to give away free drinks. Fire fighters, their faces still ashy from 24 hours in their rigs, order lattes and mochas. They sip their warm drinks and check in with one another, sometimes just sitting in silence together.

    Local community members stop by with home pastries, hot meals and pallets of energy drinks to show their gratitude and support for the massive efforts underway as the fire continues to burn.

    “People come by here every day bringing baked goods and hot meals,” said Capt. Keith Wade, Public Information Officer with the Sacramento Fire Department. “We truly appreciate it, but we always tell them...we have what we need. The people who need your help are the ones who are affected by this.”

    Wade said that the area’s residents are looking to help in any way they can. The Public Information office tries to connect them with all the updated data available, including daily incident data, maps, and locations of donation points, shelters and public assistance centers.

    Just past the front gate of the ICP is a long building that serves as the check in center for crew assignments and operations. A small group of volunteers wait outside the building with another kind of gift for the firefighters - therapy dogs. The well-trained animals do tricks, cuddle and play with those who are on the front lines of the most devastating fire in California’s history.

    The ICP serves as an information center for community members, but it’s also the primary basecamp for emergency crews, state officials and law enforcement personnel, as well as firefighting crews from out of state, including Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Texas.

    It operates like a small, well-organized town. Within a short walk from each other are trailers for medical and first aid, clerical needs, hotel services and operations. Deeper into the grounds are supply facilities, a staging and equipment area for nearly 650 rigs, and a 24-hour cafeteria and fueling station.

    On any day, half of the nearly 5000 firefighters call the fairgrounds home. The fire crews work 24-hour shifts, and rotate every day, often sleeping in their rigs. They come back to basecamp for meals and showers, and a chance to rest in one of the hundreds of sleeper trailers parked there. There are also support teams available on site.

    “It’s for anyone who is having an issue, who wants to let it out, wants to debrief, or just wants to someone to talk to,” Wade says. “They have peer support who are firefighters, but they also have specialists who are actual therapists and trauma counselors.”

    In the midst of such a devastating disaster, the folks at the ICP are doing everything they can to support the community and the response teams. Wade said he gets calls every day from citizens who want to know if their houses are safe or if someone can check on their animals.

    “It’s the human factor, that connection that we make, that we believe makes one of the biggest differences for the citizens affected,” he said. “If you can do a little act like that - and we do those things all the time - if we can, we will go out and procure those animals ourselves, so we can make that citizen happy. And it makes us feel good that we’re able to help...It affects all of us.”

    Just the day before, Wade went to a house to locate a resident’s wheelchair, and while he was there she asked him to check on her pet parrot. He fed the bird and even took pictures to send to the owner. As he told the story, his phone buzzed constantly with alerts and requests for assistance.

    “Can anyone check on some turtles?” he read aloud, and then hopped back onto his phone to see who was available to help.

    As the fire stabilizes, the team will begin to look in the direction of upcoming repopulation efforts. The state agencies, forestry services, National Guard and utility companies all work together with Incident Command to track conditions and ensure an area is safe for return.

    “Everyone involved is in some sort of communication to figure out what is the next step,” Wade said. “That’s the main thing the community wants to know: ‘When can I go see my home? When can I go get my things?’ ”

    Wade explained that once an area is cleared for return, the evacuation order becomes a warning. This has already happened in some of the perimeter areas where the homes weren’t immediately impacted. Residents are notified that there may be no power, water or emergency services offered. But many people are just anxious to get to their homes or to reunite with their animals.

    In the meantime, the team at the ICP will continue to run large scale operations throughout the region, and the Information Office will provide daily updated fact sheets about the incident and the resources that are available to the community.

    A lot of the time, Wade said, the job is about making sure the members of the community know they have someone to go to for help.

    “Sometimes it’s not really what you say,” he said. “It’s just you listening, and letting them let it out to someone who’s actually paying attention. I always think that’s one of the best things you can do.”



    Date Taken: 11.18.2018
    Date Posted: 11.23.2018 19:22
    Story ID: 301072
    Location: CHICO, CA, US 

    Web Views: 275
    Downloads: 1