Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thanks, Firefighters!

"The goal of the incident management team is to manage the Halstead Fire in such a way that there are no serious injuries or fatalities, no critical values have been adversely impacted and the public and cooperators are supportive of fire management operations."

These words appeared on the very first InciWeb page posted for The Halstead Fire when one of America's four elite NIMO Teams took over fire management August 2nd.  In the weeks ahead, it was as if those words were chiseled in stone on each of the InciWeb updates.

Two months ago today, lightning started the Halstead Fire.  Now that the daily InciWeb updates ended yesterday, it's time to look back on these past eight weeks and see how actual fire management stacked up against those bold words above.

The NIMO Team and the Type 2 & 3 Teams that followed in their footsteps did an outstanding, most excellent job in achieving their Goals.

  • There were no fatalities.  There were no serious injuries.  
  • No critical values were adversely impacted.
  • Public and cooperators were supportive of fire management operations. 

In a nutshell, "Ya'll dun good!"

First & foremost, the stellar and spotless record of avoiding fatalities and serious injuries deserves a virtual standing ovation from all of us who followed this fire.

What "critical values" were not "adversely impacted?"  Let's take a look at The Top Ten critical values:

  1. The City of Stanley was never directly threatened.  
  2. Fire managers kept the Halstead away from the signature Sawtooth Mountains and Wilderness.
  3. Aggressive fire management prevented the Halstead Fire from leaping The Salmon River, keeping safe the Heart of the SNRA.
  4. An all out, practically hand-to-hand fire combat operation snuffed nearly 20 spot fires that jumped the Yankee Fork and threatened to open a frightening new chapter in the Halstead's history.
  5. Electrical power service to Stanley was never interrupted.
  6. Homes and property were successfully protected.
  7. Highways 75 and 21 were kept open and flowing during more than 99% of the fire's duration.
  8. Historical resources including The Land of The Yankee Fork, The Doc Day Cabin, fire lookouts and other structures were protected.
  9. Middle Fork access was preserved and kept open throughout the duration of the fire.
  10. Salmon River corridor campgrounds were untouched and are back in business for the hunting season. Closures were continually adjusted to provide as much nearby public access as possible.
There is no doubt that the above ten items qualify as "critical values."  There is also no doubt that skillful fire management played a direct and significant role in preventing the Halstead Fire from "adversely impacting" each and every one of those Top Ten critical values.  The loss of any one of those critical values would have been a devastating blow to the Soul & Spirit of Salmon & Sawtooth Country.

What about the goal of assuring "public and cooperators are supportive of fire management operations?" 

We believe from start to finish that all those involved in every aspect of the Halstead Fire were totally successful in meeting that goal.  As the Halstead Fire draws to a close, we hear a wide range of  supportive comments from "public & cooperators" about fire management operations.  Yesterday, in fact,  one of Eastern Idaho's most well-respected commentators spoke highly of the success of overall fire management operations.  Let's put it another way--the public "buzz" is heavily favorable regarding all aspects of overall Halstead fire management during the past two months.

Considering the diverse, far flung stakeholders who care deeply about Salmon & Sawtooth Country, it was a major accomplishment to maintain a "supportive" public when it came to Halstead fire management operations.  

The Halstead Fire did not burn uniformly across its 280+ square miles of charred area.  Forty percent of the area was affected by low intensity fire; forty percent by medium intensity fire and only about 20 percent by the scorched earth high intensity fire affects. The scars across the Halstead Fire's burn mosaic will be with us for at least a generation or two or more.  However, the forest will regenerate as it always has and it always will. Meanwhile, Salmon & Sawtooth Country are intact and ready to move into a bright future.

Congratulations are in order for all those women and men who served in so many ways to bring us to this point two months to the day after lightning sparked that first fateful flickering fire on upper Halstead Creek.

We all appreciate your successful service on behalf of Salmon & Sawtooth Country.

Sign & photo courtesy Jeff and Barbara Colson

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