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Four Idaho Falls firefighters sent to Nevada to help wildland fires

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IDAHO FALLS — Four local firefighters are in Nevada helping fight wildland fires as the state has struggled with hot and dry conditions.

Mark Pitcher, a captain with the Idaho Falls Fire Department, and three others from the department left Idaho Falls last week with a fire engine to spend two weeks in Nevada.

So far this week, Pitcher and his team have helped the local Bureau of Land Management fight fires in an area about 40 minutes north of Reno.

“We are members of a task force here. So the task force has different types of resources put together,” said Pitcher. “This one (BLM) station that we are at is probably responsible for 1,500 or 2,000 square miles of BLM property that we could be called to go to.”

He said there are other out-of-state firefighters, including some from Syracuse, Utah.

Pitcher and his team have helped with a number of fires already, such as the Lebo Springs Fire in the Pine Nut Mountains on Aug. 2. According to the Nevada Division of Forestry, the fire burned 27.5 acres.

There have been opportunities to help local neighborhoods too. Pitcher said they have taken field trips with kindergarteners through the neighborhoods to educate them on areas that could be impacted by fires.

“Just like we do at home (in Idaho Falls), we are out in these neighborhoods here preplanning how we are going to be taking care of them, where their fire hydrants are at, how we are going to protect this home,” he explained.

He said it’s been a beneficial learning experience to be in Nevada.

“I am very happy to be here. It’s a good experience … so next time a Henry’s Creek (Fire) happens, we are better prepared,” he said.

The Henry’s Creek Fire in 2016 burned more than 50,000 acres near Idaho Falls. More than 260 personnel, along with engines, heavy equipment and aircraft, helped to suppress the fire, which took nearly two weeks to contain.

RELATED | Aerial video shows massive size of Henry’s Creek Fire

“We are grateful for the support from our leaders for allowing us to go out. It helps us be better prepared for if that event happens at home again that we’ve got that firsthand knowledge experience to be able to apply it,” Pitcher said.

As of Thursday, Pitcher was assigned to the Crystal Fire near Reno, which was sparked by lightning.

The Idaho Falls Fire Department gets reimbursed for the cost of sending its personnel and equipment to wildland fires by the federal government.

According to Kerry Hammon, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Falls Fire Department, the funds received by the Idaho Falls Fire Department from the government help pay for ongoing equipment and training for its wildland firefighters.

fire on tree
Crystal Fire. | Courtesy Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue
wildfire
Crystal Fire. | Courtesy Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue
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