A firefighter from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, watches as a fire break is created helping protect structures from the Benwalk fire in Mountain Home, Idaho, July 9, 2012. The fire burned more than 25,000 acres and threatened structures near Interstate 84. (U.S. Air Force photo/courtesy Jeff Wagner, MHAFB Deputy Fire Chief)
The after effects of the Benwalk fire near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. It burned more than 25,000 acres July 9, 2012 and is still currently not contained but crews continue to work to stop it. (U.S. Air Force photo/courtesy Jeff Wagner, MHAFB Deputy Fire Chief)
Firefighters from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho assisted with evacuations and protected the Mountain Home Hampton Inn from the Benwalk fire July 9, 2012. MHAFB and the Bureau of Land Management have an agreement to share equipment and resources throughout fire season. (U.S.Air Force photo/courtesy Jeff Wagner, MHAFB Deputy Fire Chief)
The Benwalk fire in Mountain Home, Idaho, burned more than 25,000 acres July 9, 2012. The MHAFB fire department works closely with local firefighting agencies throughout the fire season. (U.S. Air Force photo/courtesy Jeff Wagner, MHAFB Deputy Fire Chief)
by 2nd Lt. Bryant Davis
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
7/13/2012 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Fourteen Airmen and four vehicles from MHAFB were dispatched to Mountain Home, to support efforts to control the Benwalk fire, July 9, 2012.
The fire burned more than 25,000 acres and threatened structures near Interstate 84. It is the third time since June that firefighters from MHAFB have assisted the local fire departments as part of a mutual aid agreement between the two.
"The MHAFB firefighters integrated into the local Incident Command structure seamlessly during the fire response," said Jeffrey Wagner, deputy fire chief at MHAFB. "Our guys worked more than seven hours alongside the Mountain Home Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service personnel."
In addition to structural and aircraft firefighting, firefighters train to a rigorous standard for wildland fires. This allowed them to transition efficiently from wildland to defensive posturing in the Benwalk fire.
Senior Airman Jack Simonds, 366th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, described how flexibility is needed in emergency situations.
"Our first assignment was to protect a group of semi-trucks that were overwhelmed by the smoke," he said. "Our second assignment of the night was to help in the evacuation of the Hampton Inn and protect it from the advancing fire."
The Benwalk fire is not yet contained, and an active fire season will keep base firefighters on alert through the summer.
Mountain Home Mayor Tom Rist described the partnership between the MHFD and MHAFB as indispensible.
"It's hard to put into words how much we appreciate it, honestly and truly," Rist said.
The Benwalk fire is not the only fire to affect the Mountain Home Community. The JB fire on Airbase Road destroyed homes and burned more than 200 acres June 18, 2012.
Going above and beyond their normal duty, firefighters from MHAFB raised more than $2,700 for the six families affected by the JB blaze.
"Mountain Home firefighters decided they wanted to help," said Wagner. "We coordinated with base legal and the Gunfighter first sergeants and raised money off-duty. We wish to thank everyone who donated and made this event such a resounding success."
Success was not lost on Mountain Home fire chief Alan Bermensolo, who, while struggling to hold back his emotions stated, "We are one community, separated by 10 miles."