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Washington firefighting mobilization center stages at Fairchild

The Okanogan Complex fire in Washington burns Aug. 24, 2015. Task force teams staged at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., are assisting in firefighting efforts across the state to include the Okanogan Complex fire following the Type 3 Incident Management team’s arrival to the base Aug. 22 to stand up a fire mobilization center. (Courtesy photo)

The Okanogan Complex fire in Washington burns Aug. 24, 2015. Task force teams staged at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., are assisting in firefighting efforts across the state to include the Okanogan Complex fire following the Type 3 Incident Management team’s arrival to the base Aug. 22 to stand up a fire mobilization center. (Courtesy photo)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) -- A Type 3 Incident Management team arrived at Fairchild Air Force Base Aug. 22 to stand up a fire mobilization center aiding the firefighting efforts across eastern Washington.

The 15-man team from San Diego manages the staging area on base for 16 firetrucks, eight water tankers and more than 50 firefighters.

According to Chris Heiser, the team's incident commander, the resources, inbound from California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Nevada, will form eight task force components. Each component contains two firetrucks, a water tanker and a supervisor. Currently seven task force teams have already been sent to fight fires and three will be going out by Aug. 28.

"Our main focus as the incident management team is the mobilization of resources," he said. "(Fairchild) was selected because it was ideal and the base had the infrastructure to facilitate. The support Fairchild has offered has been well above our expectations."

Currently, 32 major fires are burning in Washington with more than 6,000 firefighters involved. According to fire Chief Doug Bleeker, the Spokane County Fire District 9 deputy chief, every resource in the state of Washington is currently in use to fight the fires.

Governor Jay Inslee's approved request for a federal emergency declaration to the U.S. president resulted in Federal Emergency Management Agency's involvement with the state to provide additional resources.

Heiser said that the state's request is what resulted in their deployment, but what is really making it happen for them on the ground right now is the aggressive support Fairchild AFB has provided.

"We have opened up what we could to support them, and the requests they have had were easy and within our ability to support," said Jeffrey Johnson, the 92nd Mission Support Group deputy and emergency operations center director. "This team has been very great to work with and we have established a great partnership to ensure the firetrucks and firefighters were able to be staged, formed in their task forces and sent forward to fight the fires as quickly as possible."

Johnson said Fairchild AFB is currently providing workspace for the incident management team, water for the firetrucks and allowing team members access to installation facilities.

Heiser said the help is greatly appreciated and Fairchild AFB’s assistance has been a key component in the rapid fashion these fire suppression resources and personnel packages have gotten out to conduct their mission.

"It's about neighbors helping neighbors," Heiser said. "I have never seen this level of support; Fairchild has opened up the entire base to us and we couldn't do this job without their support."

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