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News > Tinker provides support to wildfire victims
Tinker provides support to wildfire victims

Posted 3/18/2011   Updated 3/18/2011 Email story   Print story


by Brandice J. O'Brien
Tinker Public Affairs

3/18/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- The Oklahoma City metro was lucky. Air Force Materiel Command's 2010 Fire Department of the Year helped battle the March 11 wildfires. When the call came in, Tinker's Fire and Emergency Services was just one of the base's agencies to lend a hand. They put their best feet forward, not knowing what to expect.

Two fires, in which their causes are still unknown, swept through Midwest City, Choctaw and Harrah, devastating roughly 40 structures within their paths.

"We may not be on Tinker fighting fires, but we are definitely protecting Tinker people," said Chief Terry Ford. "That's just how things are; we're a community that pulls together."

Another base agency which helped during the fire was Tinker's Indian Hills Inn, which put up nine families, in addition to the 54 check-ins that had already arrived.

The call came in at approximately 12 p.m. Roughly 25 Tinker firefighters reported to the scene with fire engines, crash trucks and three Navy water tankers that held a total of 16,000 gallons of water. Assigned to cover different areas throughout the communities, their job was to keep the fire at bay, away from standing structures. It was not an easy task.

"There were a lot of different challenges," said Capt. Sean Mosshammer of Tinker's Fire Department, "like the wind and trying to maneuver around houses, urban interfaces, and people trying to leave."

Chief Ford agreed.

"Wildland/urban interface and the type of land we have -- prairies like what we have in eastern Oklahoma County with built-up areas -- poses a unique set of circumstances," he said. "If it was just out in a field somewhere where there's very little population, you can generally just employ the wild-land techniques. This one, you have to pull out all the stops."

Despite the uncertainty that the fires presented, there were several benefits and victories along the way. Chief Ford said one advantage was the firefighters of various communities already knew each other. Throughout the year, they train together and practice "what-if" scenarios. Furthermore, they extend helping hands wherever needed, to which the chief thanked the Navy for allowing them to borrow the water tankers.

Additionally, a dog was saved and returned to his owner and the fire threatened but never touched a storage area containing numerous propane tanks.

"They did an excellent job with that," Chief Ford said. "That could have been ugly."

There were also several unusual sights including cops passing buckets of water and a man wearing a firefighter's helmet while driving a tractor.

"We don't look at it as being heroic or anything like that, we're just here to do our job," Captain Mosshammer said. "This is what we train to do."

The last time Tinker responded to a devastating wildfire was April 9, 2009.

Should others need assistance, they can seek help at the Airman and Family Readiness Center. There, military personnel are eligible to use the Airman's Attic and Food Pantry. They can also apply for emergency financial assistance. Civilians cannot receive emergency financial assistance, but they may receive clothing from the Airman's Attic and food from the Food Pantry, based on exceptions determined by the A&FRC personnel.

For more information on A&FRC assistance, call 739-2747.

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