4 from Westmoreland, Somerset return from wildfire battle out West
Four area men who spent more than two weeks battling wildfires in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon as part of a 20-member hand crew returned to their homes in Westmoreland and Somerset counties Thursday afternoon.
The crew left its mobilization center in Harrisburg Aug. 13 to help contain blazes in the western states using chain saws, hand tools and hoses after the U.S. Forest Service called for reinforcements to local and federal efforts.
Western wildfire veterans Bill Pyle, 53, of Greensburg; Doug Langford, 31, of Latrobe; and Andy Walker, 31, of Rockwood were joined by rookie Brandon Hosselrode of Hyndman.
Walker, who serves as rescue captain and training officer at New Centerville & Rural Volunteer Fire Company, had been called out five times previously to fight fires in Idaho, northern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.
“We got bumped around to three smaller fires. Most of my other trips, it was one large fire that we worked at the whole time,” he said. “My other trips, it was always big timber country, pretty much all woods. This one, two out of the three were grassy, shrub type country, open country, so that was different for me.”
The crew was working mostly to contain and prevent fires from rekindling in areas where the blazes had already passed through.
“In most cases there was some type of line established or at least a retardant line, and it was our job to take away all the heat or anything that had potential of getting across the line and putting it off to the races again,” Walker said.
Langford, a forester for the state's Bureau of Forestry, said that while the main surge of the fire had passed through, the areas the crew was working remained at risk of rekindling.
“When that happens, there's less manpower per fire,” he said. “When you're doing that containment, even though the main fire has come through, a lot of fuels haven't already burned, so a lot of them have been pre-treated and heated that could rekindle at any point. It's important to secure the lines and do those types of things.”
Pyle, the 2nd assistant chief at Hempfield Volunteer Fire Department, said he took time off from his job with a trucking company to join the crew. It was his fourth time battling western wildfires.
Crew members go through classroom training and yearly physical fitness tests, and must attend an intense weekend-long training camp at least once every three years.
For Hosselrode, his first experience fighting wildfires outside a training setting provided valuable knowledge.
“I learned a lot while we were out there and I get to bring it back here in case a fire would happen. I can use that knowledge,” he said.
The crew worked 14 straight shifts after arriving, starting in Idaho then traveling to Nevada and Oregon.
“You gain lots of experience in a short period of time that in Pennsylvania we don't have such a long fire season and such consistency with that,” Langford said. “You can pack in a lot of knowledge and experience in a short period of time out there that you can bring back and apply to this area.”
Another area Bureau of Forestry forester, Mike DiRinaldo of Ligonier Township, is serving on another crew still fighting a rim fire in California near Yosemite National Park.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rostraver man pleads guilty in 2012 deadly wreck on I-70
- Study shows Ligonier Borough might save if police consolidate
- Student violinist,Valley School of Ligonier reach settlement
- Tenaska agrees to provide pollution information on proposed South Huntingdon plant
- Greensburg torture slaying participant Marinucci makes second appeal of sentence as unconstitutional
- Unity planners recommend OK of church plans
- Free training sessions to administer naloxone opiod antidote to begin in Derry
- Derry Township sponsors hazardous-waste drop
- Youngwood officials consider taking over building inspections
- ‘Music in the Mountains’ gets under way this weekend in Ohiopyle
- Man wields knife in convenience store robbery near Herminie