When disasters stretch from days into weeks, local resources are quickly depleted and emergency responders can no longer holdup under the demanding strain of protecting life, property and environment. This is exactly what happened when the Wallow Fire in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest area grew into the largest fire in Arizona’s history.
On June 14th, the Apache County Emergency Operation Center (EOC) issued a request for assistance in staffing their EOC. This call reached all the way to La Paz County. “I was prepping for a deployment a few days ahead of time, hoping to be of assistance,” said Greg Bachmann, Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator for the La Paz County Health Department. “I reported for duty June, 17th.”
For 5 days Bachmann worked 12 hour shifts with the Apache County Emergency Operation Center as a liaison between state and local agencies, ensuring that important information reached the right person. As with any emergency, communications are a priority function and a key piece to a successful response. “I gathered information from the local emergency operation center and incident command center and made sure the state agencies were in the loop. I might not have been in the middle, fighting the fire but I am glad I was able to fill a critical role.”
In addition to his liaison duties Bachmann attended the daily incident briefings, toured the extensive area damaged by the fire and assisted with press releases. Bachmann also took notes for future emergency planning. “Every emergency or exercise, whether in our county or another, is an opportunity to learn and make improvements to our own emergency operations plan.”
The Wallow Fire burned for 41 days, consuming 538,049 acres total in Arizona and New Mexico, and destroying 36 buildings. As of July 8, 2011 the Wallow Fire was listed as 100 percent contained.