IDOC fire crews honored

Fire crew poses for photos wearing red helmets, yellow shirts and holding gear
SICI's fire crew

2013 will go down in the books as a big year for Idaho Department of Correction firefighters and camp crews. Not only were they called on often; the inmates' performance in the line of duty earned rave reviews.

In fact, in a first -- not just for an inmate crew but any camp maintenance crew -- the incident commander for the Elk Complex Fire presented a certificate of appreciation to Givens Hall's two camp maintenance crews.

"This is a high honor and not the first time we've received excellent feedback about our crews," said Josh Tewalt, deputy chief of IDOC's Division of Prisons.

The Givens Hall crews are based at Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino. Last summer, they consisted of 10 inmates each and were led by Officer Kelly Burke, who served as crew boss. 

The inmates' job duties were varied (see list below). They set up and took down the tents that served as homes for the hundreds of firefighters who battled the Elk Complex Fire. In between, they made helped unload supplies, tended swamp coolers and even made coffee.

"Reports are that our crew performed better than any other camp crew this incident commander has ever worked with," said ICIO Lt. Greg Heun.

The Elk Complex Fire raged from August 10-21 near the town of Pine about 50 miles east of Boise. The fire destroyed 38 homes and cabins, scorched more than 130,000 acres and, for a time, was considered the nation's top firefighting priority.

Another Givens Hall crew, a team of firefighters which was assigned to the Pardee Fire near Kamiah, was singled out for their efforts to save the life of a bulldozer operator who suffered a heart attack on July 8.

The man died but the Bureau of Land Management's district manager, Gary D. Cooper, sent a letter to ICIO commending the inmate crew for their efforts to move the victim from rough terrain to a place where paramedics could reach him. 

"I'm so proud of our Givens Hall inmates and our staff members who lead them," said ICIO Warden Terema Carlin. "Again this year, they earned the respect of their peers by showing that they're not only the hardest workers on the fire lines but that they understand the behavior of wildfires and stick together as a team."

SICI's season

2013 was also a busy year for inmate crews based at the South Idaho Correctional Institution south of Boise. They responded to more than 13 fires. Lt. Leroy Peneku Jr., who leads SICI's Vocational Work Projects program, says the incident commanders from the fires gave the inmate firefighters superior ratings.
 
This year SICI created a fire camp crew called Crew 3-8. The crew reported to their first fire in Colorado. Their primary responsibility was to maintain the cleanliness of camp and assist the camp manager with their needs. The incident management team immediately recognized the capabilities of the crew and reassigned them from maintenance to supply.

Under the guidance and direction of Cpl. Mark Brown, this crew quickly established themselves as an invaluable resource for fire camp management during the 2013 fire season. Crew 3-8 received superior ratings at the Pine Creek Fire from Incident Commander John Kidd, who is a well known IC in the firefighting community.

All total, Crew 3-8 was assigned to five fire camps - the East Peak in Colorado and four others in Idaho: the Pine Creek Fire, the Pony Creek Complex Fire, the Little Queens Fire and the Weiser Complex Fire.

Peneku says Crew 3-9, SICI's inmate firefighting crew, continues to be a strong and reliable resource. All total, Crew 3-9 was involved in 13 different fires in Idaho.

Peneku says the crews' performance reflects the standards set by SICI's crew bosses - Cpl. Mark Brown and Officers Christopher Sarver and Rolando Tamez.

 
"The relationship we have with the firefighting community has long been established, and SICI-VWP is well respected and seen as an invaluable resource," Peneku says. "I am very proud of my staff and their ability to represent SICI and the IDOC in a positive light. I truly believe they are good stewards for the State of Idaho."

Average year for SAWC

For St. Anthony Work Camp, 2013 was an average year for the number of fires that inmate crews were dispatched to, but they were deployed for longer periods of time.

"We only had 14 dispatches but most were extended dispatches of 20-plus days," said SAWC Warden Jim Woolf.

The final tally for SAWC's 2013 fire season is impressive.  They include:

-3,673 staff hours

-26,079.8 inmate hours

-18,329 meals served

SAWC pioneered the use of inmate fire crews in Idaho, and the facility continues to enjoy a great reputation in firefighting

Story published: 12/16/2013

What does a fire-camp crew do?

Here's the official list of duties provided to EDOC by ICIO Lt. Greg Heun.
 
-Camp Crew Boss: meets with the Base Camp Manager upon arrival at fire camp. This meeting will establish the current needs of the camp as well as setting up good communications on site 
 
-Set up IC tents/yurts
 
-Level copy machines in Incident Command, using the level in the trailer (it has been reported to me that this is a necessity but nobody ever has a level - we do)
 
-Water down yurts 
 
-Tend to swamp coolers 

-Sweep out Incident Command tents
 
-Empty trash cans in offices and in general camp area 

-Distribute 'cubies' (drinking water containers) around camp and keep them filled

-Place coolers in offices and keep them full of ice 
 
-Help with coffee preparation - 5 gallons at a time
 
-Change propane bottles
 
-Unloading & stacking supplies
 
-Using the t-post driver, place bulletin boards at designated areas of the camp so Incident Command can post maps for viewing (all materials will be furnished by IC - plywood & t-posts)
 
-Bury cables: using shovels create a crack in the ground and push the cable in just below the ground. Your end result is the cable is just below ground level so nobody trips over it or damages it. At the end of the incident, the cables can easily be pulled up. 
 
-The carpenters will build at least one set of stairways to access a refer trailer (it was reported to me this will always happen at every incident - materials will be furnished by IC for construction)
 
-Assist with chow hall count
 
-Certified forklift driver is a plus (if one is available)
 
-Place, and tend to glow-sticks in porta-potties for night use
 
-Perform regular police calls of camp; keeping it looking nice (think outside the box)
 
-If we are over supply, follow direction from on-site personnel

Camp Maintenance Crew is the last personnel to leave the incident (besides Logistics). We will take down tents, remove bulletin boards, overall camp clean-up, and assist in loading all Incident Command supply equipment into vehicles/trailers for departure.

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