Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Ventura County fires hit home for 146th Airlift Wing

Staff Sgt. Tim Dawson, 146th Airlift Wing
Photo By Maj. Kimberly Holman | Staff Sgt. Tim Dawson stands in front of the ashes and debris that was once his home in Ventura, California. The Thomas Fire destroyed his and 4 other Airmen's homes from the 146th Airlift Wing, forcing about 50 wing members to evacuate as the fire raged through the county. (US Air National Guard photo by Maj. Kimberly Holman)
VENTURA, CA, UNITED STATES
12.11.2017
Story by Maj. Kimberly Holman 
146 Airlift Wing, Public Affairs, California Air National Guard  

“I was sleeping when I found out,” recalled Staff Sgt. Tim Dawson of the 146th Airlift Wing. The call startled him half-awake but he ignored it. He was trying to get a good night’s rest before work the next day. Twenty minutes later the phone rang again and he forced himself into semi-consciousness. “It was my neighbor who lives just above my apartment complex on the hill. He told me they were evacuating and that the fire was really close.”
That neighbor on the hill was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars in the driveway. 
“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to not do any more research about where the fire was, to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe.” 
Constable’s house somehow managed to dodge the flames, although the garage was burned, trees were scorched and the front fence was burned on one corner. Dawson’s three-level, 51-unit apartment complex, however, burned to the ground.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4 in Santa Paula, and driven by winds reported to be gusting up to 70 miles-per-hour, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged from wind-driven embers across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day, and about 50 people from the 146 AW evacuated; five wingmembers lost their homes.
“[My wife and I] each have camping packs, so we stuffed some clothes in,” Dawson went on, describing in detail what exactly he grabbed. Some things were necessity, a few were sentimental, he said. “I knew I couldn’t grab the whole closet, but I grabbed an old baseball cap that one of my buddies had given me as a groomsman gift,” he said, shaking his head at the randomness of some of the packing. “We lost a lot of photos that unfortunately aren’t replaceable because they weren’t backed up digitally, but we know we got out with what’s really important.”
“On the way out the door I managed to grab my two surfboards and a wetsuit,” he added. Surfing has provided some much-needed relaxation and has been therapeutic over the past week, he said. 
Dawson and his wife stopped to take a last look back toward the hills where their home sat just as the flames crested the ridge, and watched as the fire continued its march onward. At about 2 a.m. friends began calling to say they could see his apartment complex on fire. 
He describes experiencing this horrific event as being very surreal. “It’s like I know it’s happening to me, but it’s like it’s I’m watching it happening to someone else.”
Just six days after this tragedy Dawson is back at work and amongst his fellow Guardsmen who he calls family. Dawson works as a C-130 aircraft crew chief with the Maintenance Squadron. “The routine of the mission here I think is helpful,” he said. The past week has been spent “trying to find normal again, getting our ducks in a row…not the way things used to be, but just kind of starting over.” 
“The Guard family takes care of each other,” he added, recalling the two phone calls his friend Constable had made making sure he was getting out.
At the top of his list of those who have been reaching out and taking care of them is Julie Morency, the Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager. “They’ve been calling me every day, setting me up with places to get emergency clothing within the first few days. They gave us a listing of available apartments and all of the available organizations out there to help us. It’s been amazing. My Guard family has been huge in trying to help us get back on our feet,” he said. 
“People from this wing immediately began calling us offering up their personal homes, spare rooms, motorhomes, trailers, cash for food and clothing, the outpouring of support was amazing,” said Morency. “But that’s just what people do around here. It’s not unusual at all. We didn’t even ask, people just offered to do anything they could to help.” 
Dawson forgot to mention one important item that he threw into the car that night. Somehow without even thinking about it he grabbed his uniform and military boots. Perhaps it was so automatic that it didn’t even occur to him as being something he packed—of course his uniform was in the car. “Because it was Monday and I had to go to work the next day…It’s my job… I needed to be ready to go and help out however I could,” he said when asked why he packed it.
Upon reflection Dawson says he and his wife consider themselves very lucky. “We went down to the fairgrounds and saw people still sleeping on cots, who got out with just the clothes on their backs…Some aren’t as fortunate to have the family and support system we have…We’re making due… All we lost were physical connections to memories we’ll never lose. We’re better than a fire burning our things up.”

Monday, December 18, 2017

Proposed Fire Training Facility Kindles Community Relationships for the NCANG

North Carolina Emergency Training Center Announcement
Courtesy Photo | U.S. Air Force Col. Michael "Troy" Gerock announces the Air National Guard partnership with the Office of State Fire Marshal in the construction of a new Emergency Training Center while in Raleigh North Carolina, Dec 7, 2017. The facility will provide a centralized location to be used for advanced fire and emergency training courses
CHARLOTTE, NC, UNITED STATES
12.14.2017
Story by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Clark 
145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard  

The N.C. Air National Guard has partnered with the Office of State Fire Marshal to build the N.C. Emergency Training Center, a facility at the Stanly County Airport that would provide specialized training for emergency responders statewide while sparking economic growth to the region. 

For many years, the firefighters of the N.C. Air National Guard utilized the school and facility at Good Fellow Air Force Base in Texas. The new training center in Stanly County will reduce the need for Airmen to travel out of state, while providing a center for local non-military first responders to utilize as well. 

“It's really a critical area and when you look at it from the training perspective there's nothing that we do that's more important than being trained and ready for virtually any type of event,” said Chief Master Sgt. Daryl Cook, Fire Emergency Services Chief for the 145th Airlift Wing.

The proposed facility will offer specialized classes in natural disaster response, structural collapse, interior firefighting, exterior firefighting, and urban search and rescue, making it only the second of its kind in the nation. 

“We want to be a one-stop shop for virtually any type of emergency response training that our first responders could be faced with,” said Cook. “Right now, we don't have a State Fire Academy here in North Carolina so there are several thousand firefighters that don't have a good location to get both basic and advanced courses in the fire department disciplines.”

By partnering with the 145th Airlift Wing the Office of State Fire Marshal is able to build the center with no upfront costs, and complete it using a combination of Federal and State Funding. Once finished the estimated cost to house and train emergency responders will be a mere $30 a day, making it a viable option for emergency units that would otherwise lack the funds for advanced training. 

For Chief Cook the important take away is that none of this could have worked without teamwork, “We [the N.C. Air National Guard] couldn't do it alone. The Office of State Fire Marshal understood they couldn't do it alone, and I think this is going to set an outstanding precedent across the guard for what can and will happen when you put a partnership like this together.”

Late-fall prescribed burns help cut wildfire risk, improve habitat

Late-fall prescribed burns help cut wildfire risk, improve habitat
Photo By Scott Sturkol | Post personnel oversee a prescribed burn Nov. 30, 2017, at Range 100 on South Post at Fort McCoy, Wis. Personnel with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services Fire Department; Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch; Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; and the Colorado State University Center of Environmental Management of Military Lands under contract with the post help coordinate each prescribed burn at the post. Prescribed burns, generally, are done in the spring and fall seasons because weather conditions are most favorable at those times. Prescribed burns also improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities, and reduce wildfire potential. (U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy, Wis.)
FORT MCCOY, WI, UNITED STATES
12.12.2017
Story by Scott Sturkol       
Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office    

Fort McCoy’s last prescribed burns of the year took place Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 at areas on North Post and South Post.

Personnel with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services Fire Department; Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch; Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security; and the Colorado State University Center of Environmental Management of Military Lands under contract with the post help coordinate each prescribed burn at the post. 

Prescribed burns, generally, are done in the spring and fall seasons because weather conditions are most favorable at those times, said Jim Kerkman, installation forester with the Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch. Prescribed burns also improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities, and reduce wildfire potential. 

“Prescribed burns, generally, are done in the spring and fall seasons because weather conditions are most favorable at those times,” Kerkman said.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources defines prescribed burns as a way to “improve wildlife habitat, control invasive plant species, restore and maintain native plant communities and reduce wildfire potential.” 

Charles Mentzel, Fort McCoy forestry technician who oversaw the burns, said it was an ideal opportunity to prepare the area prior to the start of the Operation Cold Steel II exercise in 2018.

“Prescribed burns help reduce wildfire potential in areas all around the post — especially in places where military training is taking place,” Mentzel said.