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Crews continue fight against Robinson Canyon Fire

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Kelly Koistinen, left, takes a break in the shade with Jerry Welborn

Kelly Koistinen, left, takes a break in the shade with Jerry Welborn in the middle of the day on Thursday morning at the Forward Operating Base off Hazelton Rd. Koistinen is working the fire with a forest service team from Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota while Welborn is from here in Buffalo. Welborn has been hauling water to large fires for 33 years but said he has never had to haul water to a fire right here locally in his own backyard. For FOB crews and support crews, lots of the work happens early in the morning and late at night when the firefighters return to camp for meals and to clean up, leaving the middle of the day a bit quieter.

The Robinson Canyon Fire, which was suspected to have been started by lighting, took hold in some pretty rough landscape - forcing local crews to look outward and bring in regional fire teams to help fight the blaze. One of several regional fire teams was brought in to deal with the larger, more advanced fire so that local crews could focus on other small fires if they needed to. The crews set up command at Johnson County Fire District #1 as well as a forward operating base on the mountain closer to the fire where food, showers and other services were maintained for firefighters. 

The incident command area for the Robinson Canyon fire

The incident command area for the Robinson Canyon fire set up in the parking lot of Johnson County Fire District #1 and spreads into the field between the JCFD1 and the fairgrounds. Each morning at 7 a.m. information is delivered in a short briefing to any and all team members at camp which includes everyone from support staff to firefighters.

A palette of batteries is set up next to the lunch station

A palette of batteries is set up next to the lunch station so teams can grab packs of extra batteries on their way out for equipment like radios. Most of the supplies are tucked off the road in the back corner of the lot but the batteries were set up for easy access near the exit.

Supplies are organized on palettes in the back of the parking lot

Supplies are organized on palettes in the back of the parking lot including everything the firefighters might need to work on the mountain and the support crew needs to keep the firefighters prepared and on track. Coolers, for example, are set up at all the separate stations to force everyone to stay hydrated and healthy while at work.

A number of teams are set up for operation

A number of teams are set up for operation inside the Johnson County Fire House #1 rather than all having to be outside. This includes teams ranging from check-in to finances to logistics to safety.

Sarah Wempen, Sarah Myers and Chelsea Herbertson talk from their GISS station

From left, Sarah Wempen, Sarah Myers and Chelsea Herbertson talk from their GISS station on Thursday morning at the Johnson County Fire Department #1. The Geographic Information System Specialists work to compile and collect data gathered about the fire daily and put it into a readable map daily.

Tori Palmer talks about her helicopter and what her job

Tori Palmer talks about her helicopter and what her job might include while working on a fire on Thursday morning at the Johnson County Fire Department #1. Palmer is a pilot who can help with everything from carrying water to transporting people.

Clay keeps his leather cowboy boots and flight clothes

Clay keeps his leather cowboy boots and flight clothes in his helicopter so he’s ready to fly at any time. He is required to wear leather shoes and the specialized clothes for safety and has a dry erase marker velcro’d to the wall so he can write radio channels, number of trips and other notes on his window to keep track of while flying since he flies alone.

Lawn chairs set out in front of a school bus run by Tom Ostberg

Lawn chairs set out in front of a school bus run by Tom Ostberg to help move either firefighting crews or camp crews. Tom has been contracting his services for almost 10 years and is working with the camp crews on this fire.

The camp crew for the Forward Operating Base

Hiding out of the sun under a tarp, the camp crew for the Forward Operating Base was taking a break between jobs on Thursday morning. This camp crew traveled down from Idaho to join the Robinson Canyon fire teams, its members representing the Shoshone and Bannock tribes.

Tents at the forward operating base

Similar to the larger camp set up in Buffalo, the forward operating base set up closer to the fire consists largely of tents for the crew working on the fire. The FOBs are set up far from the fire so as to protect the camp and resources in it and hopefully avoid having to move the camp mid-fire.

Photojournalist

Jessi Dodge joined the Bulletin as a photojournalist and a Report for America corp member in 2020. If you have ideas or comments, reach out at jessi@buffalobulletin.com.

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