Wildland crews are an asset

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“We had a pretty good start to the season”, said Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District Chief Jeff Hunt during the Fire Chief’s Report portion of the Governing Board meeting held on Thursday, July 20. Chief Hunt was referring to the North and Brian Head Wildfires they assisted with recently. So far, the crews have made over $60,000 for the district by renting out their equipment to assist in fighting the wildland fires and they are only half way through the season; in 2016, they made a profit of $360,000.

The money made by fighting the wildland fires helps a great deal when it comes to maintaining a rural district that is low funded. A large portion of the additional money generated helps to update equipment that currently isn’t up to contemporary industry standards.

One of the updates, addressed at the meeting, was the recent purchase of a new power lift for unit M-11. EMS Captain, Debbie Gates, stated that the powerlift is a priceless addition and will help eliminate a large percentage of EMT back injuries. Unit M-11 is the only unit in the Arizona Strip, Mesquite or Bunkerville Departments to have a power lift.

One resident who lives around the Combe Ln. fire expressed her concern about having enough personnel to protect the district while the wildland crews are away. Chief Hunt assured her and the rest of the community that there were eight highly qualified and well-trained firefighters in in the district when the crews are out for approximately two to three months a year. They also have agreements with neighboring districts, BLM and Clark County to help respond anytime assistance is needed.

Firefighter Ernesto Renteria completed his last Engine Boss Training assignment during the Brian Head fire and was recommended for official status; results were still pending as of the end of the meeting. Chief Hunt reported that Beaver Dam was well represented at both fires and he has heard nothing but good about the BD/LFD Wildland Crews.

Andres Ojeda, Battalion Chief, also reported how beneficial the wildland training was when they assisted the Mesquite Fire Department with putting out the 13+ acre fire behind Hafen Park that was alleged to be caused by arson in late June. Mesquite Fire and Rescue turned the reigns over to Chief Ojeda so that he and the other highly trained wildland crew members could save the home that was being threatened.

Chief Ojeda said that crews who weren’t specifically trained and experienced in fighting this type of fire needed to step back into the rehab unit every 15 minutes while the wildland crew didn’t stop one time for rehab. The reason they could endure without that rehab break was all due to wildland firefighting training and experience. Mesquite PD expressed some interest in exploring some similar training options.

Raises were discussed for several employees including Chief Ojeda, Captain Debbie Gates and Administrative Assistant George Burnett. The item was tabled pending further investigation by the board members into present salary structures and current competitive market salaries. Chief Hunt said the raises were already built into the current budget pending the board’s decision.

Other items agenda items included whether to put Captain Gates into the retirement system which passed by unanimous vote. An item that also passed by unanimous vote was to allow Captain Gates to collect 50% of the department’s employee health premiums in lieu of accepting the coverage offered in her benefits package; Chief Ojeda also has that stipulation built into his employee compensation plan.

The results of all the agenda items discussed during the July meeting can be found on the Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District web site at https://beaverdam-littlefieldfire.org as soon as it is updated. Presently, all previous meeting results are updated to July 18.

The Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District is always looking for volunteers, if you are interested in some of the best fire-fighting training around or learning to fight wildland fires contact them at (928) 347-5114.

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