Building A Fire Camp Overnight: “People Are amazed At How Fast We Can Mobilize”


Despite being one of the largest counties in California, Modoc County has less than 9,000 residents.  Hotels are few and far between in this rural county, so when over 2,000 fire personnel were assigned to battle the Modoc July Complex Fire, housing and logistics were an immediate challenge.

Almost overnight, the California Interagency Incident Management Team 4, along with officials from the US Forest Service, Cal Fire, Cal OES and other cooperators came together to build an incident command post which eventually became home to the thousands of men and women assigned to the fire.

“This (camp) will go up from the time on scene to within 24 hours or less and you’ll have a fully functioning camp,” said Patrick Titus, Operations Section Chief.  “You’ve got to go for life support first,” Titus continued.  “What I mean by that, you’ve got to get the crews fed, you’ve got to get them showered and they’ve got to be able to sleep.  Those three things are key.  All this other stuff comes together over time.”

“People are amazed at how fast we can mobilize,” said Logistics Chief Ross Peckinpah.  “This particular agency put together a camp layout with actual photos of locations of where to set things up,” said Peckinpah.  Despite the advance preparations, setting up an incident command post close enough to the fire was not an easy task.

“On the Modoc (National Forest), there’s not a lot of usable grounds for camping because of the amount of volcanic rock,” Peckinpah explained. “It’s difficult to walk on and, as far as putting down tents or anything, you have to rake it.”

Finding usable grounds for tents isn’t the only hurdle.  The incident command post also includes meeting rooms in the form of trailers and yurts, air and ground logistics, a weather monitoring station and a fully staffed and stocked kitchen capable of feeding the over 2,000 fire personnel three meals a day.

“We provide a large amount of calories for each of the meals.  These firefighters can burn up to 7,000 calories per day, so we require so many ounces of muscle meat for each meal.  We rotate a diet for these folks, high in calories,” said Peckinpah.

You can watch our story on the Modoc July Complex Fire incident command post on our Cal OES YouTube page here.


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