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From the Chief: Wildfire Mobilization in WA State
This time of year, I am frequently asked … “Do you have any firefighters out fighting those wildfires throughout the state. If so, how does that work”?
Here’s a quick overview.
Fire Departments helping other fire departments in Washington is a necessary and common event. Agreements are signed ahead of time between the agencies in Washington which spell out who pays, how much etc. During this time of the year when vegetation or “grass fires” tend to get big and spread quickly, our State relies on Mutual Aid to provide the hundreds of firefighters required to suppress these fires. This Mutual Aid is commonly known as “fire mobilization” and occurs very often between May and October in Washington.
When an agency experiences a fire that overwhelms its resources – such as last week’s Upriver Beacon Fire in Spokane County Fire District 9 – a request is made through the Mutual Aid system for additional resources needed to help. Agencies throughout the State, including Spokane Valley Fire, have predesignated a certain number and type of resources that they are willing to send to help. These resources all respond in a rapid manner to the incident and often are committed for up to 14 days.
The State compensates a department like Spokane Valley Fire for the cost of those resources when they are at the event. If by sending local resources you run short for your regular everyday staffing, the State compensates for the cost of overtime to fill those vacancies. The system is designed as to be “cost neutral to the assisting agency” thereby more agencies are willing to help.
Here at Spokane Valley Fire, as I write this article we have five firefighters and equipment deployed throughout Washington and Oregon on “mobilization”. The Spokane Valley Fire Department nor its residents incur any additional costs for rendering this aid, and we work with the understanding that “we” may very well be the agency asking for help at some time in the future and hope our partners throughout the State are willing to help.
If you would like to know more about “Mobilization” or “Mutual and Automatic Aid” in the Fire Service, just give me a shout. I would be happy to explain more in-depth.
Bryan Collins, Fire Chief
- Julie Happy