Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Police work as one team for fire

Extra resources sent to valley to assist local officers


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

    When an emergency strikes in Blaine County, local law enforcement agencies have learned to work as one team. That sense of camaraderie has been exemplified by police cooperation during the Beaver Creek fire.
    Top police officers in the Wood River Valley all agree that cooperation and assistance have been excellent.
    “They’ve lent me officers when I needed them and I’ve lent them officers when they needed it,” Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey said Tuesday. “This is really working hand in glove.
    “All the money that everybody’s been spending on equipment and training is really paying off. Everybody in the valley has been cooperating 100 percent.”


Everybody in the valley
has been cooperating

100 percent.”
Gene Ramsey
Sheriff


    Police duties during the fire have mainly involved traffic control, manning barricades for evacuated areas and making sure mandatory evacuations are carried out safely. On top of that, police have their regular law enforcement duties.
    However, Ramsey and other top officers in the valley noted that crime has been relatively low during the fire.
    Ramsey has also had some outside assistance. He said extra officers have been deployed to assist from Idaho State Police, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
    On Sunday, about two dozen Idaho National Guardsmen with both the Army and Air Force were dispatched to Blaine County for traffic control, access-point support and for roving patrols in evacuated areas.
Ramsey said every sheriff in the region has also offered to provide resources if needed.
Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter agreed that cooperation has been good.
“It’s been great to see everybody work so well together,” Gunter said. “We just sort of use who’s ever available.”
Gunter said his officers helped the sheriff’s office with evacuations prior to Friday and received assistance from other agencies when the fire burned down Croy Canyon to the edge of the city limits.
Interim Sun Valley Police Chief Walt Femling loaned his officers to other agencies when needed, but didn’t need much assistance himself because the city of Sun Valley was only under a pre-evacuation order for three days.
“We’ve got enough people here that we’re just all one family,” Femling said.
Femling said crime seemed nonexistent over the weekend, but that some of his staff were kept busy answering questions and concerns from the public and “keeping them confident that we’ve got a pretty good team out here.”
Femling said his message to the public is: “It’s been very well coordinated; they’re in good hands; there’s a good team in place to keep this thing together.”
Ketchum Police Chief Steve Harkins said one of the harder responsibilities during the emergency has been making sure police resources are used effectively.
“Everybody’s working well together,” Harkins said. “We have a lot of resources. Everything seems to be going well.”
Although a pre-evacuation order was lifted for most of the city of Ketchum on Monday, Harkins said police and Ketchum Fire Department Chief Mike Elle continue to keep a close watch on the situation and continue to coordinate with Sheriff Ramsey and other officials.
“The sheriff is in charge of ordering and lifting evacuations, and I’m working very close with him,” Harkins said.
The police officers agreed that the situation with the fire had improved, but noted that there is still a need for vigilance.
“I’ll be glad when it’s over with,” Harkins said. “I’m a little tired of it.”
Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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