Here are a few of my thoughts and a very basic overview of our week from a fire standpoint.
This has been a crazy week with all sorts of problems happening not just here in Garfield County but in Northwest Oklahoma. It started last Monday, a major fire on South Leona Mitchell Drive along the railroad tracks. That particular response involved Enid Fire and Waukomis Fire. We had 3 other rural departments’ en route but we called them off when the fire was contained. There have been numerous fires around the county but they were quickly contained by quick response from automatic aid between different fire departments. This means that if a fire breaks out, let’s say north of Garber, Hunter Fire would automatically respond with Garber. They would let us know if more response is needed. Right now, all fire calls go out to everyone in the Rural Fire Network. This way we all know what’s happening. It also helps in the response process.
Our Garfield County Task Force was placed on standby for 2 counties since they had sent their Task Forces to Woodward. These are things that happen behind the scenes that most folks don’t realize. This part is just as important as going a long distance to fight fire. We were in the RED FLAG WARNING AREA for 3 days and we had to send our task force into Major County upon request to help put out a controlled burn that of course, went out of control. This is what we do.
During this time, our fire departments cover their respective areas on a day to day basis and then when we have these major incidences occur, we split up the departments for the apparatus that is needed for the response and the rest is automatic. We never deplete any one department for a deployment. That would be dangerous for the jurisdiction. We have 4 groups within our main task force network. Each group is unique and the response is very timely. I could explain all the details but that would take up too much space. All thirteen departments in this county are a part of our countywide task force.
I had several folks call me this week with very colorful language because we basically stayed home. YEP!! We were not only covering our own areas but several other counties and their response areas in the event there was a fire. Their Task Forces were called first because they are closer. It’s always been that way. There is a state protocol in Oklahoma that we in emergency management follow. It took a few years, years ago, to get fire and law enforcement on board with the protocol, but it got established and it works pretty well. WE DO NOT SELF-DISPATCH. Doing so will get you sent back home in most cases and you most likely will NOT be reimbursed because you responded without being called. All of this is coordinated at the county level and may escalate to the state level depending on the size of the incident, etc. I then coordinate with our task force group when a call comes in from either the state or another county emergency manager. Our system works extremely well and we also coordinate with law enforcement during these times too. You have to allow the emotion of wanting to just go, to go away and wait for that call. It is difficult and believe it or not, we are always in touch with that County E.M. and the state.
Some folks ask, is there ever a power or control issue while on scene. I have never had that happen here in Garfield County or on any incident and I have responded to in 21 years. We work together in a Unified Command Structure. We all know our jobs and what we are supposed to do so we take the Intel, we coordinate, and then we respond. It’s really simple even though it may sound complicated. That is why we do something called TRAINING. It actually works.
This structure works not only for fire, but for search and rescue in a tornado event etc. All of us in emergency services know this protocol and we just do what we do.
Finally, just know and understand we all in emergency services are highly trained and we do our jobs as best we can. We do this because we love what we do and most of all; we do what we do for you or another jurisdiction in either yours or their time of need.
Have a great day!!