Aspiring fire commander getting lesson of lifetime in Arizona

Jun 25, 2020, 6:31 AM | Updated: 12:34 pm
(InciWeb Photo)...
(InciWeb Photo)
(InciWeb Photo)

PHOENIX – It has been a season unlike any other when it comes to wildfires in Arizona.

The Bush Fire northeast of the Valley is the fifth-largest in Arizona history. The Bighorn Fire near Tucson is the ninth-largest on record for the state and the Mangum Fire burning near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park is the 10th-largest fire in state history.

No homes have been lost in any of the three fires.

Alex Robertson is a Fire and Aviation staff officer with the Central Oregon Fire Management Service. The area includes the Deschutes National Forest and the Ochoco National Forest.

Robertson been training with the Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team to become an incident commander. Alan Sinclair’s team has dual command of the Bush and Central fires.

“I’m spending a lot of time with [incident commander and deputy incident commander] seeing what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and taking those lessons for myself to eventually be an incident commander,” Robertson said.

He said they’re at the tail end of the three big fires.

“We’re on the glide path out and in the phase of making sure the fires are tucked in and making sure they aren’t going to move anymore and they haven’t in a few days,” he said.

Robertson is also gaining tips on effective COVID-19 safety measures for firefighters.

Arizona has essentially been a proving ground for what’s ahead this summer when it comes to protecting firefighters in the age of COVID-19.

There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 among thousands of firefighters battling fires across the state.

“We have a strong interest in keeping the workforce safe,” Robertson said.

“COVID is one more hazard in a very hazardous occupation as it is.”

Arizona won’t see an end to the wildfire season until the heavy monsoon rainfall arrives which could still be weeks away.

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Aspiring fire commander getting lesson of lifetime in Arizona