Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Blacksheep VFD Makes an International Impact

Training on Lake Ladoga (on the Finnish border with Russia). Photo credit: Maria Vasilieva
(Training on Lake Ladoga, located on the Finnish border with Russia. Photo credit: Maria Vasilieva.)

  • In 2015, the area around the city of Chita suffered what they call a "firestorm" that consumed 110,000 acres and 400 homes. 
  • The local government in the region often denies and under reports the size of fires.
  • The federal forest service is underfunded and understaffed; so they cannot fight all fires that pop up, especially in Siberia.
  • In 2016, the Irkutsk region experienced timber fires that consumed over 2,000,000 acres unchecked.
Black Sheep VFD Goes to Russia
Black Sheep Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) personnel traveled to Russia (Irkutsk region included) in June 2016 to take part in an wildland fire academy organized and hosted by Greenpeace Russia (GPRU). GPRU has a firefighting component that is made up mostly of volunteers.

(Russian personnel are eager to learn about ICS. Section chief meeting prior to deployment becomes briefing in front of the whole academy. Photo credit: Maria Vasilieva)
While at the academy, Black Sheep personnel shared a down-and-dirty version of the Incident Command System (ICS) and implemented it during fire patrols and firefighting operations. ICS was quickly adopted by other field commanders at the academy during their turns as Incident Commander (IC) for the day.

Future Collaboration Efforts
During their visit, Black Sheep personnel made contact with various volunteer firefighting organizations, resulting in future collaborations.
  • Black Sheep is working with GPRU to develop a leadership academy and will be host two GPRU firefighters in December 2016. These firefighters will attend the Sierra Blanca Wildland Fire Academy, taking S-130/190, S-212 and L-280 as well as participating with Black Sheep on a few prescribed burns.
(Briefing for incoming IC and Ops Chief. Photo credit: Maria Vasilieva) 
  • In 2017, Black Sheep personnel will return to Russia to assist new partners in Siberia. While in the region for 6-8 weeks, personnel will teach modified versions of S-130/190, L-180, L-280, S-290, field exercises in constructing fireline in grass and timber, squad size tactics and strategy, weather observation and forecasting as well as constructing fireline tools specific to the unique situations in Siberia. Basic medical knowledge will also be shared. 
Paul Fidler, Black Sheep VFD Chief, doing patient assessment on burn victim.
(Real-life incident within an incident lessons in the field. Paul Fidler, Black Sheep VFD Chief, doing patient assessment on burn victim. Photo credit: Maria Vasilieva)
(Expect the unexpected: Packaging the burn patient when a spot fire pops up. Photo credit: Maria Vasilieva)
Observations and Occurances
  • Participants were volunteers from all over Russia, and there is no standardization. 
    • A lot of them wore personal clothes; some had uniforms. 
  • The Ladoga area has unexploded ordinance from WW2.
    • While the scout teams were out on the fire, three pieces of UXO went off. Personnel gathered around the GIS map plotting the locations of the detonations based on information from the scout teams.
  • Firefighters are at risk of harm from local area extremists.

Thanks to Chief Paul Fidler, Black Sheep Volunteer Fire Department, for sharing their experience.

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