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County firefighters head off to battle Western blazes

The deployments are not expected to be the last.
Friday, July 13, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:10 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the amount of land affected by fires in Idaho.

The Boone County Fire Protection District has sent five firefighters to battle the blazes in the western United States.

On Wednesday, Doug Ritchie and Jake Waller, both volunteer firefighters, left Boone County to join forces with firefighters in the region who are fighting the Warm Springs Fire in the Payette National Forest in western Idaho. The fire has engulfed 23,000 acres so far.

Mike McCord, Ryan Hammontree and Mike Fisher were deployed Tuesday, along with teams from Rolla, to the Boulder Creek Fire, near Silver City, Idaho. That wildfire has spread more than 4,500 acres.

Both fires threaten buildings and homes.

“Things are just spreading and popping up rapidly,” said Gale Blomenkamp, Boone County Fire Division chief.

On Thursday, nine new wildfires sprang up around the country, and 39 large fires are currently burning.

The Fire District participates in the U.S. Forest Service wildland fire program, which sends help from areas not directly affected by the fires. Once an area exhausts its local resources and forces, other districts, like Boone County, are asked for aid. Last year the district sent firefighters to other states about half a dozen times during the wildfire season, Blomenkamp said.

“They take their knowledge, expertise and well-learned firefighting with them,” he said.

The men may be away from home for up to 16 days, which Blomenkamp said can put a strain on families and employers of the firefighters.

“These guys are volunteers, so their jobs are allowing them to take off,” he said. “Without that we wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate.”

Of the five men, only Hammontree and Fisher are new to the wildfire trips. This trip will be McCord’s fifth.

The two deployments are the first of the year, but they won’t be the last, Blomenkamp said. “We anticipate a very busy season,” he said.


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