Moshannon State Forest Fire Warden's Training Banquet held|
Thursday, October 11, 2012
By Terry Whetstone Staff Writer
MADERA - The Moshannon State Forest Fire Warden's Training Banquet was held last night at the Madera firehall, with forestry officials and firefighters in attendance.
The event saw Stat MedEvac medical helicopter representatives provide the safety portion of the meeting. They discussed the Dutch Creek incident of July 25, 2008, in Junction City, Calif.
Andy Palmer had just graduated high school and took all of the appropriate wild land fire training and he went on his first fire call July 25. The members of his crew cut a tree that fell down slope and struck another pine tree, which broke off and struck Palmer. He was bleeding profusely and eventually died from his injuries before he got to the hospital.
A video of that incident and the time the lapsed before he was rescued from the woods was the main topic of the program.
Kevin C. Laskovich, coordinator of business relations and development for Stat, said his group is working with Moshannon State Forest members to more quickly establish landing zones in wooded areas as a way of rescuing someone hurt during a forest fire.
"But whatever you do, you have to keep the local ambulance crew coming too," Laskovich said. "We rely on them for help, for stabilizing the patients and other uses."
While there he also went over landing zone safety and stated that firefighters no longer have to pull hose from the fire truck and charge it with water when a helicopter is landing, as it will delay them from getting to it should it go down.
He said if there is a chance it's going to crash, the pilot is going to get it as far away from the landing zone crew as he can to keep them safe.
Laskovich said if there is the slightest chance they may need a helicopter, put it on standby immediately, and it's protocol to be in the air within five minutes of being dispatched.
Ryan Ling, the fire forester who spearheaded the banquet, said, "There isn't one stick of timber worth losing your life over; everyone needs to go home at night." He said the main goal is for everyone fighting the fire to be able to return home, if it means losing a few more acres for safety, then so be it, as long as everyone is safe.
Ling, who took over for Kenneth "Kenny" Barnes this past year, said his top priorities are safety and training.
He also wants to keep a good working relationship with the local fire companies. He said Barnes established those good relationships and he is hoping to keep it going.
Ling noted he has an open door policy and everyone is welcome to stop by his office, call or send an email. He also said if there is a problem or an issue he has to know about it, or he can't fix it.
Ling touched on the need to report fires and injuries immediately and he said the more programs fire companies do, the more funding becomes available.
In 2012, there were 641 total fires in Pennsylvania, and of those 58 were in District No. 9. This included three injuries in District No. 9, but none to firefighters. There was one building destroyed and several threatened across the state, but only one in District No. 9. No one died in Pennsylvania brush/forest fires in 2012.
Also, in 2012, forest fire crews assisted with fires in 16 other states.
John Hecker, district forester, said of the 53 fires in the spring, they were all kept to 10 acres or less except one. Of those, 60 percent were started by debris burning and several were caused by arson.
Joe "MoJo" Miller was on hand to speak about the 17 million acres of forestland in Pennsylvania. He spoke about training and upcoming training and the New York Fire Academy is coming up at the end of the month and lasts about two weeks.
Miller said the forest fire plane will be returning to Mid-State Airport in April, with the aircraft going on line April 6 and being here for 37 days. He said it's the same contract as the past few years. The debriefing for the plane will be held April 5.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5 of Howard, was the guest speaker. He spoke of how he is a volunteer firefighter with Howard Fire Co. in Centre County and has been for the past 30 years. During that time, he served as fire company president for about 20 years.
He said there is no way possible the commonwealth could ever afford to operate without volunteer firefighters. He said the cost to fund paid services would be astronomical and it's never going to happen.
"We're very thankful for volunteers," he said.
He knew the people in the room had missed more than one dinner, Christmas or other family gathering for fire calls, and he said he really appreciates their time.
Thompson said from the 1960 through the 1990s there was 3 million to 5 million acres of forest lost to fires annually, then in the 2000s it topped out at 10 million acres for that year. Since then, it hasn't been that bad.
He reviewed grants firefighters could apply for and what and how to go after them.
Finally, the last bit of business addressed was a special award being presented to Barnes.
The back page of the program was dedicated to him, as it gave information on his time at the District No. 9 offices and what he has done over the 37 years he was there. He said he was appreciative of the award and told host Wayne Wynick he should have given him a little notice, to which Wynick replied, "That wouldn't have been as fun."
Other awards were presented as well. The service awards went to Doug Zazworsky for 15 years; Nancy Fetters, 20 years; Ronald Woodling, 25 years; Alex Reinke, Norman Bean and Patrick Mondock, 35 years; Donald Foster, 45 years; Homer Cowder, 50 years; and O. Lynn Frank and Robert Radomsky for 55 years.
Wardens Helping in Prevention was also recognized for the programs it held the past year. It includes Michael McCracken and Shawna Thomas, four programs each; Terry Collins Sr., Wayne Enigh and Robert Prior, two programs each; and Jack Laing, one program.