While most of Wyoming’s wildland firefighting assets are engaged with fires, and a very high fire danger level is in effect throughout much of the Cowboy State, Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center quickly made arrangements to support a request to become a staging area for firefighting crews from around the country.
Camp Guernsey operations officer Maj. Michael Fields said the request was received July 28 and the following day 123 firefighters were flown in from Eastern states, ready to be dispatched from Guernsey to anywhere in the six-state Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. Forest Service’s jurisdiction.
“We waived the 30-day rule to reserve facilities on camp. Billeting said they had rooms and the dining facility assured us they could support them,” said Fields.
“They may be staying here minutes to days,” said R.J. Johnson, a fire equipment research and development manager from the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho, and the manager of the Rocky Mountain Area Mobilization Center at Guernsey.
“The mission is to marry up fire crews with tools and transportation and to take care of all their logistical needs,” added Johnson.
The crews, currently from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia, are flown to Casper, Wyoming, and then bused to Camp Guernsey where they await dispatch to a 14-day assignment at any of the numerous fires burning in the region.
“This is an ideal central spot where we can round up a couple hundred people, give them a bed and shower, feed them and get them on the buses,” said Gary Hobbs, Wyoming State Forestry Task Force leader, who is assisting the coordination effort at Guernsey.
“Billeting and the (dining facility) have been outstanding. We had a crew come in last night that got a couple bites of dinner down and got called up. It’s very fluid here. Others might sit and wait for a while.”
Numbers have fluctuated over the first few days from 123 to 185 firefighters staged at Guernsey. Hobbs said the effort may last through August depending on the fire situation.
The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center services Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and North and South Dakota.