TWIN FALLS — The Badger Fire started just over two weeks ago, and fire crews have been battling the blaze around the clock. Firefighters from all over the US, such as Alaska, Florida, and Montana, came to assist in fighting the blaze.
There were also local crews on the scene as well as crews from other areas around Idaho. One member of the Type 4 Engine Team from Idaho Falls, Erin Elzinga, described what it's been battling different temperatures over the past 14 days. "It's been a long one. We went from really hot weather to rain, to really cold at night."
The Badger Fire has been somewhat of a new experience for the crew since they typically deal with smaller, faster-moving fires and a faster work pace.
Elzinga also described the role that she and her crew has played since their arrival. "We've just been going behind the crews and securing up that line after they've been through, or even some of the quieter sections of the line that still have heat in them. We go back through and make sure it's really cold and cut out, and snags are out and do what we can to make sure a line is contained."
While some crews focused on containing the fires, others were directly involved and getting right into the mix of the inferno. Particularly, teams with valuable vehicles such as Caleb Swartzendruber and his uncle, two contract firefighters from Montana, brought their vehicle, "The Hulk," which helps transport water right into the fire.
"We deliver water into the deep depths of the fire where an engine can't get or anything with rubber tires can't get, or it's too steep, or the terrain denies other vessels from getting in," said Caleb.
Caleb also described his experience over the past two weeks of fighting the fire. "There are times where it's just, you're busy, you're really busy, and you need to get water to the fire. And other times where you just got to stand back and let the fire do its thing."
He also mentioned having to fight the Badger Fire while also battling the pandemic. "There's certain things you need to do, maintain social distancing, you know you got to wear a mask. It makes it a little tougher for sure, but just like everything else, you just adapt."
Multiple camps and command centers were arranged throughout the area where the fire had been to help accommodate social distancing
requirements. Erin Elzinga said, "This is my first big fire during the COVID year, so there are a lot more spike camps. We haven't even been to the main camp, so we don't even know what it looks like. In spike camp, everyone is just harping on washing hands and stuff like that."
Now that the fire is nearly out, crews and its members have the thought of going home on their minds. "We're all ready when our time is up, when they say you're heading home we're like, "Ok I'm ready, I'm ready to get in that nice bed and take a nice shower," my goodness, we're all ready for a nice shower," said Caleb.
The Type 4 Engine Team from Idaho Falls just fought their last day of the fire yesterday afternoon and returned home today. Caleb Swartzendruber extended his stay for a little while longer, yet still expects to be returning to Montana with his uncle and "The Hulk" in the coming days.
Caleb Swartzendruber also wanted to thank the local residents and their support towards all the crews fighting the fire. "All the locals around here have just been so supportive, and they try to do everything they can to support all the firefighters, and they always thank us when we go into stores. It's little things like that, that really go a long way and means a lot to everybody."