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CVFD 2012 Recap

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The Clancy Volunteer Fire Department had a very eventful 2012. The department answered a record number of incident calls during the past year, and was on scene for many of the large fires in the region, including the “Corral Fire” in Helena, and the “19 Mile Fire” in Whitehall. In between, the department handled various structure fires, vehicle fires, and the occasional re-igniting slash piles. But fires weren't the only CVFD activities this year. The fire fighters also took part in community events, and began the year by selecting a new chief.

Chad Parks was voted in by the members of the department in January, replacing Chief Nic Bair. Chief Parks came to the Clancy area in 2006, and joined the department in 2007. His first year of leadership began well, as three department members – Jason Gilliland, Sam Mitchell and Chris Kiser - successfully completed their “Fire Fighter 1” training in March, and became recognized fire fighters for CVFD.  The additions were welcome, as CVFD responded to a higher than usual numbers of calls to begin the year. They were on scene when a mobile home in Clancy was destroyed by a fire apparently caused by a child playing with a lighter. Just a few weeks later, CVFD was called to a home in the Forest Park sub-division where a ceiling fire was found, that filled the residence with smoke. CVFD and Montana City VFD firefighters used thermal imagers to locate the hot spot in the ceiling, then opened it up to reveal the smoldering insulation. A mis-located chimney pipe was suspected as the culprit. Further into the back country, CVFD and Jefferson City fire fighters were called to a scene of a burning ‘feller-buncher’, a piece of logging equipment that caught fire at a remote and difficult to reach site two miles from the main road leading to Tizer Lakes.

By mid-year, the “real” fire season was underway, and Clancy fire fighters were called to assist with an 1800 acre fire in the Scratchgravel hills in Helena. CVFD were on the teams that protected many structures from the flames that roared down the mountainside. Clancy teams also stayed on to help with mop-up operations, and got a firsthand view of the devastation the fire caused, including burning four residences. With dry conditions fed by a mild winter and higher-than-usual winds, fire fighters were frequently being called to scenes where slash piles that had been “out” for days, even weeks, were re-igniting or smoking under the duff. Clancy teams also were called out to assist with a wild fire in Whitehall, providing water supplies to the first strike teams.

Clancy fire fighters returned to the Whitehall area in August, assisting local, state and federal crews with a vicious 3000 acre wild fire that ended up destroying nearly 40 structures, including 20 homes, and causing injuries to residents. Clancy sent in three teams on 12 hour shifts to help control the fire that was in very rugged terrain, and worked closely with Forest Service and DNRC teams, including the “Helena Hot-Shots” professional crews. In September, CVFD was called to again work with multiple agencies on the “Chessman Fire” located in the mountainous region between Clancy and Helena, near the Chessman Reservoir. Clancy was the first team on scene, and established the initial command and direction for the arriving fire crews. Turning to another fire threat CVFD deals with regularly, fire fighters responded in the cold early morning hours in October to the scene of a burning semi-truck on I-15 near Clancy. Flames were estimated to go 30-40 feet in the air from the engulfed trailer section, and several explosions burst from the trailer while fire fighters attacked the flames.

It wasn't all fires for the Clancy crew. In April, CVFD led the Annual Easter Egg Hunt at Clancy School, with about 300 participants. Clancy VFD also played a large role in the yearly Clancy Days festivities in June, then came back in September to assist the North Jefferson County Public Library with an ‘Octoberfest’ fund raiser. While adding three new members early in the year, the department did have to bid farewell to one member. Keith Mildren, who had been with Clancy VFD since 2008, informed the department in December he was leaving the area to pursue opportunities as a professional fire fighter in Washington State. Keith had answered many calls for Clancy, including the Corral and 19 Mile fires this year, and he will be missed. But, as a positive, CVFD had two new members voted in during the fall. Steve Wood and Brian Hattersley have both begun attending meetings and training with the department, and will begin basic “Fire Fighter 1” and Wildland Fire training in January. The department welcomes the new additions.

Records indicate the Clancy Volunteer Fire Department answered more total calls in 2012 than in the previous three years. Conditions over the past fire season were very favorable to causing bad fires – frequent and unusually high winds, warm, dry temperatures and humidity, and high rates of fire mitigation activities (with more brush pile burning and timber clearing occurring), and several major fire incidents were battled by the fire fighters. In hindsight, though, CVFD almost unanimously agree the number of incidents could have been much higher, and acknowledge that quick response and action by the volunteers kept many smaller incidents from growing and becoming much worse. CVFD also recognizes that caution and awareness of fire danger by all residents in Jefferson County was a huge contributing factor to keeping fire damage minimal. The department hopes everyone will remain vigilant throughout the winter, as the threat goes from the wild land to the indoors. Double-check smoke detectors, and make certain to place heaters and holiday decorations away from flammable materials. Make sure heater registers are clear, and relatively clear of dust. Be careful with wrapping paper from those Christmas gifts; don’t let them get too close to heat sources like candles, fireplaces and heaters.

The Clancy Volunteer Fire Department wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. We look forward to serving the Clancy Fire District and its residents in 2013.