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Fire cache near Missoula keeps crews well-stocked - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Fire cache near Missoula keeps crews well-stocked

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MISSOULA -

From chainsaws to ready to eat meals (MRE’s) to over 500 miles of hoses, the Northern Rockies Interagency Fire Cache near Missoula keeps fire crews across the area well-stocked.

They complete all maintenance and restock tasks in house, and are currently supporting nine large scale incidents. However, their capabilities could allow them to support 30 large-scale incidents if necessary, said Anthony Krause, fire cache manager at the warehouse.

The warehouse near Missoula could support up to 5,000 firefighters at any one time.

They recycle equipment through multiple caches in the northwest and even nationally, which helps cut down on the costs of fighting fires.

“We supply all the basic firefighting equipment to every partner in the GACC, which would be tribe, state, local, county, federal. We are a Type 1 cache which means everything we send out we can repair, refurbish, or replace in house, which is one of the big features here. A lot of the equipment goes out numerous times in a year. It is not uncommon for a pump or a piece of hose to go out 8 different times in a year, come back, and be fixed again,” Krause said.

As of August 5, 2017, 175 chainsaw kits, over 30,000 meals, and nearly 1 million gallons of water have cycled through the cache, as well as over 3,400 sleeping bags.

“We’re working currently from about six in the morning every day to about nine/nine thirty at night seven days a week, because there’s people out in the field that need our services,” Krause said.

Workers at the cache build kits that include everything a firefighter might need to complete a specific task.

“Whatever they think they will need, they will order today for tomorrow’s shift or late this evening,” said Rod Pecknick, the materials leader in charge of shipping and kit building.

He says the biggest orders now are going to the Gibralter fire, the Rice Ridge Fire and usually the Sunrise Fire.

After a quality assurance check up, some incoming gear needs to be fixed up.

“We are responsible for the maintenance and repair of all the chainsaws, generators, high pressure pumps that the crews use for fire suppression,” said Kevin Roberts, fire region 1 equipment repair shop equipment manager.

Chainsaws, for example, that have been issued and returned for maintenance, have common problems.

“A lot of times, they are just dirty, and the fact of smoke inhalation, dirt, stuff like that, they get get used for long hours in hot, dry and dusty conditions. So, a lot of dust in motors, pistons, cylinders, stuff like that,” he said.

Their work doesn’t end when the fires go out, running the cache is a year round job.

“Throughout the winter is, everything that comes back off the fires, cleaning it, fixing it, repairing it, putting it back in boxes, building all the kits back, and then we borrow stuff from all the different caches around the nation and its sending it all back to them that we got from them,” Pecnick said.

A minimum of $25 million worth of gear is kept at the cache, and they are now stocking beyond that to keep up with this summer’s fires.

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