Starbuck Wildfire Update

(Larry Biles) We had seven of our permanent staff involved with the fire; two were involved with the Incident Command Center with the Kansas Department of Emergency Management at Topeka. We had Rodney Redinger working the fire in Hutchinson; he was actually the operation section leader for that Incident Management Team. Working with the local law enforcement agencies, he was one that helped pull the trigger on the evacuation order for that Highland fire in Hutchinson area. The other significant part is, once the General Tafanelli staff provided what we call a task order, we were instrumental in bringing in out-of-state resources. In that regard, what we did and Eric Ward was a section leader on this, people coming from out-of-state were directed to report to Dodge City Kansas. Eric checked them in there and then he deployed them to the Clark County Fire. We are very very small in staff that has assigned fire responsibility, actually only four of our staff that I have reference there were seven on the fires, only four of them are full-time fire managers, if you will. Effective this week, the Kansas Legislature approved membership in the Great Plains Fire Compact. That’s one of nine compacts around the nation by virtue of being in that compact; it’s a state-to-state mutual aid agreement arrangement. What that means, I as state forester can call my fellow state foresters and say, “I need help,” and we can negotiate how that help is going to be provided, whether it’s going to be complimentary or voluntary or whether it’s going to be paid for. Once that is established, then we start moving people into the state to help with these fires. The good news about that, we can respond much earlier than waiting for a national or state declaration of an emergency. Number two, when we start bringing in the out-of-state resources for the most part they are very skilled resources. They have gone through wildfire training programs; through what they call task books and they have raised our level of performance a great deal. Virtue of those two things, quick response and having skilled people adds a great deal of value – skilled people with equipment adds a great deal of value. In the case of both the 2016 fire known as Anderson Creek and now the one down in Clark County known as Starbuck, had we been in the compact when that fire was actually burning because the fire started in Oklahoma, they could have used all their suppression teams right across the border to help with that fire because we weren’t in the compact and even with the aircraft they stopped them at the border. We think we’ve solved that for future fires that come from out-of-state.

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