Jerry Soukup and the Squirrel Creek Wyoming fire.


(Photo courtesy of the Laramie Boomerang)

Last fall I joined the Big Laramie Valley Volunteer Fire Department, and this spring
I went to "red card" school in Cody, so I could fight wild land fires. I passed and two
weeks ago, I passed the physical test - 3 miles in 45 minutes wearing a 45# pack and
walking only. I have been hoping to get in the air operations area, because it was
apparent at school that the instructors and classmates new little about aircraft and
especially helos.
Well, I got my first call out on a fire last night, a few hundred acres about 3 miles NW
of Wood's Landing from us in the Medicine Bow's, the Fox & Squirrel Creek area - really
steep terrain with lots of canyons.
I was pumped, but ended up being a little let down.

Being in a National Forest - USFS took over and it appeared that they are a little like the
USMC i.e. we can do it better, we don't need your help, but sit on the side lines, watch
us work and if it gets out of hand we'll bring you into the fray. After sitting around with
one of our VFD tender crews (truck water tanker, but the tanker term is reserved for ACFT)
for about 5 hours, at 10:30 P.M. I left, telling our crew that I was available - just yell!

Before sunset, they were using a Bell with a twin pack with a small bucket (considered a
class II - medium helo), an old S63 Sky Crane (a Class I - heavy helo), and an old Convair
turbo-prop. The helo's were dropping water and the Convair was dropping retardant. The
Convair had to go all the way to Denver to re-load. They had an aireal coordinator (FAC) in
a Turbo QueenAir who circle about 2,000' above the fire (which is at 8,500").

A USFS crew was trying to set up a fire line. As I got ready to go, I looked out and it looked
like a Boy Scout Jamboree with about 150 spot fires spread out over 400 - 600 acres in billy
goat terrain. It was dead calm and smoke was like a fog.
This morning, we got a pre-evacuation call (reverse 911), it seems the wind has come up and
the message said the fire had become "unpredictable". We spent the morning setting up to
take what we could, if we get the "evacuation" call.
There is one nice aspect of still having "unpacked" items in our trailers, we can just hook up
and save somethings.

P.S. Not looking so good this afternoon!

P.S. There is a Phrog (Columbia Helo's) dropping water - as we were putting out spot fires.
It brought tears to my eyes and it wasn't the smoke.