Friday, July 31, 2015


It's a Family Affair

This dad and four kids are all decked out with helmets and waterguns as part of the Bad Ass Bicycle Club's annual Water War. Havin' fun in the summertime!

This is part of Theme Day at the City Daily Photo blog. Click here to see more photos by bloggers from around the world.


A Grateful Walla Walla Comes Out to Thank Our Heroes

Despite being tired and dirty, this firefighter takes time at the end of his long day to make memories with the kids.

Rockstar status is bestowed upon this young firefighter as kids reach to shake his hand.

Cookies, cards and colorful beads are some of the thank-you offerings given to returning firefighters.

Similar grateful sentiments are expressed on a number of handmade signs.

A group of kids awaits the blast of cold water from the fire hose.

More memory making for this girl as a firefighter returns to thank her and her mom for their support.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Bowling Ball, That Is

As seen in Susan's garden on one of the many bowling balls used as decorative hose guides.

Friday, July 24, 2015


. . . Almost

Fire Camp is growing everyday. What with over 1,000 fire fighters and support personnel on site, it has become a small city. And with that many people, there is a need for sanitation. I lost count today at 48 porta-potties set in clusters throughout the Fire Camp; there very well may be a few more that I missed.

Movin' in the big blue units on Wednesday from Doug's Septic Service of Walla Walla.

Line 'em up.

Even more units were brought in Friday from Rahn's Sanitary Service out of Enterprise, Oregon.

J.C. Emergency Environmental Service provides this handy 8-sink mobile handwash unit near the tents for easy access to quick wash-ups and teeth brushing.

It definitely takes a village to keep our firefighters clean and happy.


Feeding some 1000 people is no easy task. Once the Blue Creek fire was upgraded to a Type 2 Incident, the number of firefighters and support personnel grew exponentially. It was also when state and federal funding and contracts took over the support services to the Fire Camp. 

Heretofore, all the meals and snacks for the 400 +/-firefighters and support staff were supplied by Country Gentlemen catering out of Kennewick along with the generosity of local citizen volunteers. But as of Thursday evening, Larch Camp Kitchens is cookin' up the meals at Fire Camp.

Larch Camp Kitchens is a minimum custody work program for inmates from Larch Corrections Center near Vancouver, WA.*

In the span of 24 hours from my Wednesday visit to Fire Camp, Larch Camp Kitchens had arrived and set up their system of multiple refrigerated semi-trucks and commercial kitchens. Separate semis hold meats, vegetables and fruits, and dairy.

According to USDA guidelines, firefighters are guaranteed at least 6,000 calories a day. That's a lot of food to store and prepare.

The lines may be empty now, but as the night crew awakens and the day crew returns to camp, here's where they will queue up to be fed.

According to the uniformed guard who served as my guide and question answer-er, firefighters will be served a dinner of steak with all the fixin's including potatoes, vegetables, salad, drinks, and dessert in a buffet setting with seating at large tables under big shady tents. Dinner service begins at 16:00 hours and runs until the last firefighter has been fed. 
Breakfasts will include a variety of meats, eggs, fruit, cereals and beverages. 

As for lunch, bag lunches are prepared by youths from Naselle Youth Camp, a medium security facility of the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.* Firefighters carry their own lunches, snacks and drinks with them in their line pack.

According to the owner, a big burly sawyer from ASP, his line pack weighs about 40-45 lbs. and contains all the supplies he needs for 12 hours on the job including an extra chain saw chain. Having carried a 40-pound pack myself when my goal was basically to walk from point A to point B, these firefighters have to bend, stoop, reach, grapple, dig--in other words WORK--while wearing a loaded pack. 

* Because of security reasons, there are no photos of the workers from these facilities.

6140 acres
10% contained
approximately 1000 personnel
9 helicopters
2 aircraft tankers
17 20-person hand crews
We are awaiting arrival of three Type 1 hotshot crews to join the Type 2 Team (Incidents are categorized by five types based on complexity. Type 5 incidents are the least complex and Type 1 are the most complex.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015


More Behind the Scenes Views of Fire Camp from Thursday, 7/23
(NOTE: These are only some of the trucks of the night crew. There were even more trucks up in the mountains fighting the fire as the day crew.)

 Spokane County #3. . .HERE!

 West Plains Fire District 10 . . .HERE!

 Lincoln County Fire District . . . PRESENT!

 Cheney Fire Department . . .HERE!

 ASP (Albany, Sisters, Pendleton) . . .HERE from Eastern Oregon!

 USDA Forest Service . . .HERE!

 Liberty Wildfire Inc. from Twisp, WA . . .YES!

 North Kitsap (all the way from Puget Sound region) . . .WE'RE HERE!

And last but certainly not least, WW Fire Department . . .PRESENT and READY TO ROLL!


While I'm leaving the photography of the fire itself to the professionals with the credentials and long lenses, I can report that according to Sarah Foster, a spokesperson at incident command, "the fire has grown to the southeast, and one goal is to stop it before it gets to the Umatilla National Forest." She added that as of Wednesday morning, it has engulfed 5,500 acres making it the highest priority fire in the Northwest.

That said, I took a trip out to the Fire Camp on Tuesday afternoon at Walla Walla Community College to see what goes on behind the scenes. Fire camps are little cities set up to coordinate a wide range of support and fire suppression efforts.

Case in point: Mobile shower trucks provide all the comforts of home (almost) to the weary and dirty firefighters and other support staff in the command center.

Eight sinks with soap, mirrors and paper towels provide a place for a quick clean up or a post-shower shave or primp.

Camera-shy shower manager Amanda was not shy about pointing out the luxuries of her shower truck. She proudly showed me the four women's showers particularly noting the stools and the mirrored vanity exclusive to the women's side. The men's side has four more showers for a total of eight but only a bench. Sorry guys!

Just like home, mobile showers use a two-way water system, only the system is out in the open--potable water flows in to the showers through the big blue bladder . . .

. . . while the used grey water is collected in another bladder which is eventually taken to the wastewater treatment plant for proper disposal.

This mobile shower facility is from Bishop Services out of Goldendale, Washington and is under contract with the Forest Service to support fire camps such as this one at WWCC. By upgrading the overall incident management to Type 2, contractors like Bishop Services take over the support system that was initially handled by local vendors and volunteers.

At the time these photos were taken, Bishop Services was awaiting the arrival of their mobile catering truck that will take over feeding the growing number of firefighters and support personnel who were still arriving on site. (Photos to follow.)


By Wednesday afternoon there were nearly 1000 firefighters camped on the grounds of Walla Walla Community College near Dietrich Dome which is serving as the Command Center and staging area for the upgraded Type 2 Fire Management operations. 

Several tent encampments spread out across the grassy grounds of the college. 

According to one firefighter I spoke with, compared to other fire camp settings, WWCC ranks right up there among the most comfortable.

 Under a shade of a large tree, a weary firefighter sleeps, leaving his boots at the ready nearby.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


These are not my photos, but Walla Walla is my town and my county and I want to share this current event with my CDP viewers.Thank you to local professional photographers including Steve Lenz and Donna Lassater for sharing their photos of this dangerous, yet strikingly beautiful situation.

On Monday around noon, fire broke out along Blue Creek and Klicker Mountain roads, nine miles east of Walla Walla. It has now consumed nearly 4000 acres of grass, brush, timber and slash as it travels northeast through the Blue Mountains. It is 0% contained.

At the start a Type 3 Incident Management Team fought the blaze which included 250 area professional firefighters and crews. Unusually hot weather with gusty winds combined with tinder dry fields and forest floors made battling the blaze extremely challenging. 

As the extent of the fire grew, the Walla Walla Board of County Commissioners officially declared the Blue Creek fire a disaster. 

By Tuesday evening, a Type 2 Incident Management team took over command. This team is at the state level and has the capacity to organize a much larger operation. Nearly 400 firefighters have been called in from around the state and funding is from state and federal sources. This frees local crews to be available to respond to local emergencies.

If you look closely, there are at least 13 firefighters battling this blaze.

With smoke from the Blue Creek fire billowing just over the hills, wheat harvest continues in the Walla Walla Valley. For most farmers, getting the wheat out of the field is of prime importance before it becomes fuel for a new wild fire.