Straight from the Christie Mountain Fire, Warren Kipp and his team at Eagle Ridge Consulting headed south of the border with their specially built tactical water tender Nessie.
The team also goes by the tagline, WeHaulH20. The Western spoke with Kipp on Sept. 17, in his first break since crossing into the United States last week.
“We just rolled off the Cold Springs fire yesterday,” said Kipp. “Our equipment is down there, and we’re just waiting for reassignment. There’s still plenty of fires down here.”
The Cold Springs Fire that WeHaulH20 fought near Omak burned over 90,000 hectares from when it was first reported on Sept. 7. They also helped on the Customs Road wildfire, which burned 890 hectares near Curlew, Washington.
During the Christie Mountain Fire, the team was in the thick of it to help fight the fire in their back yard.
“In Penticton, we had active fire duty where we were out in the black, so to speak,” said Kipp. “Putting out hotspots with our overhead monitor, or our lines directly off the truck.
Having finished with the Cold Springs fire, some of the team have already received their next assignment and are being deployed to the Inchelium Complex Fire south of Grand Forks.
On the Cold Springs Fire, the tactical tender was assigned to the fire line, where they were on-call for hot spots and aiding smaller engine crews by keeping them supplied with water. The team and tender haven’t spent all their time on the fires directly putting water on the flames.
We’ve been doing everything from water handling to dust suppression. That’s a critical part,” said Kipp. “You’re maintaining the roads in, you’re introducing humidity, and it might supply roads or egress routes where the last thing you want is heavy equipment tearing up or breaking down. “
Fighting wildfires is similar on either side of the border, and sliding into the command structure hasn’t been a problem. Nessie is actually based on models used in California for fighting their aggressive wildfires, built in B.C. and capable of handling rough terrain in areas that a regular engine can’t.
The main issue they’ve encountered so far is letting the fire commanders in Washington know what resource they have at their hands.
“At Cold Springs, they basically told us they wished they had us the week before,” said Kipp. “It’s just going to take a little bit of time for them to realize what we have, and activate us to a fire where they can use all the features we have.”
Kipp and his team is staying down in the United States for a while, and with the many ongoing fires, there isn’t a shortage of things to do.
“We’re hoping for a month of work,” said Kipp. “That might just involve moving around the state and into Oregon. There’s a lot going on right now.”
This is the first year that the team has deployed to the States. It’s the culmination of a process that started over a year ago, and a process that Kipp encourages other teams and companies interested in fighting fires across the border begin as soon as possible.
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