Carroll firefighters back from Idaho

September 30, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

When Tim Legore and Roger Arrowood volunteered to go to Idaho, they were hoping to fight the forest fires that have burned thousands of acres in the Boise National Forest.

But when the two members of the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department arrived in Idaho with 60 firefighters from Maryland, most of the fires already were contained.

"We were disappointed," said Mr. Legore, 20. "But our first time out fighting a wildfire, we didn't expect to be in the real fire."

Instead, Mr. Legore and Mr. Arrowood, 19, did cleanup work, helping to put out smoking "hot spots" and reconstruct trails that had been cleared as part of the firefighting effort.

The two Carroll men made the trip to Idaho as part of a team organized by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service.

The group was assigned to the Idaho City Fire along Rabbit Creek, which had threatened a 154,100-acre area in the Boise National Forest.

Forest fires charred more than 464,000 acres in Western states this summer.

Since July, Maryland has sent nine 20-member crews to fight fires in Washington, Montana and Idaho.

Mr. Arrowood and Mr. Legore, who have served with the Winfield company since their mid-teens, decided they couldn't pass up an opportunity to help battle the forest wildfires in the West.

Before leaving for Idaho, the Maryland firefighting crews spent a week in training at the Madonna Ranger Station in Harford County, where they learned techniques for fighting forest fires.

Also, everyone on the crew had to demonstrate his fitness for the job by running a mile and a half in less than 11 minutes.

Upon their arrival in Idaho on Sept. 13, the Maryland firefighters found a blackened forest. "Hotshot" firefighting crews had contained most of the actual fires.

"It was black like a wasteland," Mr. Arrowood said of his first impression of Idaho. "Nothing was green; it was all black and burnt."

The crew spent much of their two-week stay in Idaho covering over burned areas with dirt and putting out smoking "hot spots" that continued to burn underground.

For nine days, the crew lived at a base camp and slept in tents.

Portable heaters were available to take the chill off the evening temperatures, which occasionally dropped to the 30s.

The firefighters had access to showers and portable toilets. Hot meals were provided at the camp canteen.

The conditions at the "spike camp" on top of a mountain -- where Mr. Arrowood and Mr. Legore spent five days -- were considerably more Spartan.

The crew's assignment was to put out the hot spots on the mountain.

The volunteers slept in sleeping bags unprotected by tents.

No water was available for washing, and meals were brought in by helicopter.

Despite the devastation of the fire, Mr. Arrowood and Mr. Legore said they could see the beauty of the forest.

"Once you got up the mountain, you could see forever," Mr. Legore said. "It was just wide open areas all around."

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