Fire chief offers praise for firemen, supporters
For two years in a row now, our community and Elmore County have been hit hard by devastating wildland fires. Last year, the Contrail Fire on Airbase Road took out six homes, followed by the Benwalk Fire that raced toward the Hampton Inn and then the Trinity Ridge Fire that threatened Featherville. This year, the Pony Complex and Elk Complex fires devastated the foothills, mountains and sage-covered grasslands north of Mountain Home from Mayfield to Pine, consuming 280,642 acres, at least 81 structures, crippling ranchers, destroying timber, killing livestock and wildlife, and forever scarring the beautiful landscape that many of us have enjoyed throughout our lives.
As I reflect back on the past 15 months as the city's fire chief, I am overwhelmed by the support that our community, as well as the folks from Pine and Featherville, have shown our department and my firefighters specifically as it relates to these past two wildfire seasons: Donated food, cases upon cases of water and Gatorade, gloves, cash donations, and energy drinks. "Thank you Firefighters" posted on reader boards, sign boards, and posters. Messages left on our answering machine like: "Thank you for all you do to protect our community from the wildfires. Please let me know if you need anything."
Yesterday, I sent thank you cards to 18 different people and businesses acknowledging their generosity during the Pony and Elk Complex fires that started Thursday evening, Aug. 8. I know I've missed some folks. I hope they understand that it is only because I didn't have their name.
Also, I need to tell you how proud I am of my 33 firefighters. On Thursday, Aug. 8, the evening that a dry lightning storm lit up the desert around Mountain Home, your volunteer firefighters worked 19.5 hours throughout the evening, all night long and into Friday trying to control the six different fire starts. That was after they had worked all day Thursday at their full-time jobs. Many of them were up for 38 hours without sleep.
When you see them on the street tell them how much you appreciate what they sacrifice from their personal lives and family to protect our community and our neighbors.
They are: Justin Baldwin, Ron Bergh, Brandon Brenenstahl, Brad Buehler, Bud Corbus, Chris Corbus, Danny Downen, Gary Fletcher, Chuck Garvey, Elsa Guillen, David Harris, Jared Hart, Lekeif Jackson, Ty Larson, Al Lawler, Mark Moore, Bob Neuer, Ron Nicolosi, Henry Patrick, Mitch Prouty, Brian Reed, Alan Roberts, Eugene Rogers, Darrin Sandberg, Jim Sexauer, Steve Shockey, Jason Tindall, Chuck Van Meer, Rick VanMeer, Mike Vitley, Kris Wallaert, Kevin Wilson, Bret Young.
And finally, thank you to all of the spouses and loved ones of my firefighters. I know the sacrifices that all of you and your families make so that your firefighter can serve his or her community. Never forget how much I care about them and that their safety is my number one priority.
-- Alan Bermensolo, Mountain Home fire chief