When it all comes together, and you've saved homes, you've saved resources, people are safe, there's a sense of accomplishment that you've done something worthwhile. —David Selchau
DUCHESNE — After nine days fighting the Church Camp Fire, the members of the Mount Hebron Wildland Fire Module learned Friday that they were heading home to the Klamath National Forest in California.
"We've learned to expect the unexpected," said crew member David Selchau.
"Typically, we'll be sent out for a maximum of 14 (days)," he said. "As of now, leaving this assignment, we still have five days left, so we're still hoping to contribute those to another fire."
John Kidd, incident commander of the Type II team responsible for fighting the 7,100-acre Church Camp Fire, had originally expected to have the blaze 100 percent contained by July 15. Now, the fire is expected to be fully contained by Saturday.
And Thursday's cool, wet weather has doused the need for firefighting resources — like Selchau's crew and others — around the region, said Keri Vest, the demobilization unit leader with Kidd's team.
"A few days ago everything that we released from here was taken into another incident," she said. "With the moderation of weather, we're not getting any reassignments, so the resources that are going home now, are actually going to go home."
Before crews can leave the fire camp for home or their next assignment, however, they must go through the "demob dance," Vest said.
That entails returning any firefighting gear checked out from the supply unit or radio equipment borrowed from communications. Vehicles are washed and certified as clean before leaving the area to prevent the spread of any noxious weeds.
And finally, fire crews are quizzed on how far they must travel to reach their next destination. They're reminded that solo drivers can't be behind the wheel for more than 10 hours, and that travel to or from a fire is forbidden before 5 a.m. and after 10 p.m. to help ensure firefighter safety.
"We find out where they live, when they're going to leave and how long it's going to take them to get home," Vest said. "So we're tracking them from the incident, home."
The demobilization process also serves to notify fire dispatch centers at the local, regional and national levels which resources are available for the next incident.
"It is a very clean way to take care of those resources," Vest said.
Friday morning, as crews worked their way through the demob dance, Vest said bringing any major fire under control leaves firefighters feeling like they're part of something bigger than just themselves.
"When it all comes together, and you've saved homes, you've saved resources, people are safe, there's a sense of accomplishment that you've done something worthwhile."
That's what Selchau and his crew thrive on.
"It can be grueling at times," he said. "I think most of us feed off of that."
"This is where I want to be. I love it," he added. "Everything about this job keeps me going, keeps me satisfied."