Needless to say, equipment breaks down, tires go flat, vehicle accidents happen, and you can’t just call AAA. The job of Ground Support is crucial to the success of the mission.
With a fire perimeter this large and the substantial number of vehicles needed to engage in suppression efforts – likely close to a thousand – the men and women of Ground Support are kept very busy. At the three different incident camps, there are ten people in administration and ten mechanics, along with three Cal Fire mechanics, to keep equipment running.
In addition, there are 22 drivers who deliver orders out to the fireline. When someone on the line orders up drip torch fuel, Mark III pumps, or 100 nozzles and a few thousand feet of hose, it’s Ground Support that makes the delivery.
They also retrieve excess equipment from the fireline once it is no longer needed, and perform the never-ending task of back-hauling all manner of trash from the various locations on the fire. They make runs to the airport to shuttle people to and from the incident, and pick up parts for repairs.
Also, there are 42 three-quarter-ton and/ or one-ton four-wheel-drive rental trucks available for firefighters who fly in from around the country, or for crews to use when engines break down so firefighters can still go out to support their team on the line.
Ground Support also has four weed wash units that wash the various vehicles and equipment used on the fireline to help prevent the spread of invasive weeds from one incident to the next. The undercarriage and wheels are blasted with water, the water is collected and filtered twice before being hauled away in tankers. The mud that is washed off is collected in large bags and disposed of according to procedure.
Ground Support does not just work to maintain the equipment. When new resources arrive at fire camp, it is the job of Ground Support to inspect the fire engines, crew buses, heavy equipment and other assorted vehicles for safety before those resources are released to head out to the firelines. And as equipment is released from the fire, Ground Support conducts outgoing inspections when specified.
While everyone knows about the firefighters and the aircraft, it’s worthy to note that an entire little town has been erected at the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park to support the boots on the ground, and one of the major components in the machinery is Ground Support. Thanks for all your hard work!