Idaho Helitack crew was originally designed to initial attack small remote fires, which demanded a high level of physical and professional know how in order to operate effectively in remote situations where help and additional resources may be hours away. Heading up the leadership team is Fire Warden Ken Homik, who spent part of his career as a “hotshot” sawyer, which refers to a Type-1 hand crew and experts in initial attack. These “special forces” of wildland firefighting often work weeks on end, 16-hour days cutting line with hand tools and chainsaws around large and complex fires both locally and across the country. Under the current leadership, several KV firefighters have gone on to hotshot and helitack crews. Additional services offered by KV leadership include teaching courses to volunteer fire departments and providing EMS and Search and Rescue with basic wildland safety information to enable these professionals to execute their jobs in a safe and effective way around wildfires. Training New firefighters are hired on as a Firefighter 2 and over the years can work their way up to a Firefighter 1. Part of the basic training for all wildland firefighters is a series of courses in firefighting strategy, tactics and fire behavior in relation to weather and geography. These courses are offered in addition to other scenario and skills-based training as a week-long course called Guard School. After this training, new firefighters receive their “red card,” which is a wallet-sized card that verifies their course completion and qualifications of national standards.
an overnight fire response. This scenario combines all the job skills required and puts two crews together to initial attack and manage the fire. Fire Season This year KV experienced a light fire season, a welcome change for landowners in Boundary County. There were 13 fires, from Boundary Creek to Naples and east to the state line. The season started off strong with a warm spring that spurred two fires the weekend of Mother's Day. The first fire took place on about a tenth of an acre above District 5 road looking over the river valley. North Bench Volunteer Fire Department were the first responders to the fire and they were able to swiftly get their Wildland engines up and set to establishing a line around the fire. KV soon arrived and assisted with the direct attack. The next day, Mother’s Day, KV returned to the soaked ashes of the fire to check for any smoke or hot spots and mop up. They found a few smoldering hot spots and soaked them up with mop up wands. The crew hadn’t been at work for more than an hour before a page came out that a fire had been reported a few miles up Westside Road. This fire was nearly an acre and burning underground in duff along the bottom of the river valley. Together with North Bench Volunteer Fire Department and Forest Service, KV coordinated direct attack and finished mop up by 8pm. The next week there were two more wildland fires and it seemed the dry spring would segue into a dry summer and busy fire season, but we all know how that turned out. Due to the quiet season, KV’s fire crew was able to put time in at some of the other tasks often completed by the timber crews at IDL. Such tasks included spraying noxious weeds, clearing roads of fallen trees and harvesting pine cones at several seed orchards for later cultivation by IDL scientists. Those seedlings are then used to replant Idaho Forests.
Upon returning to KV, firefighters are ready and qualified to fight fires across the district and nation. The training regiment for KV firefighters THIS YEAR KV EXPERIENCED A begins before guard school and continues after their return. These skills LIGHT FIRE SEASON, A WELCOME include running the fire engine pump, CHANGE FOR LANDOWNERS IN deploying and laying hose lines around BOUNDARY COUNTY. fires, and hand tool techniques to maximize output and maintain stamina throughout long days of cutting line. The last few years, KV has been conducting a two-day scenario here in Boundary County in coordination with the Sandpoint district to simulate
Wildland firefighting for KV doesn’t always mean fighting huge fires and saving babies, but it does mean being ready every day during the season. Always on call and always ready to serve, for the crew at KV it’s a kind of brotherhood as they push each other during training so when they are in the thick of it they know they each have the skills to get each others back.
October 2016 Bonners Ferry Living Local