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Blaze no match for combined effort

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Firefighters use tactical skills to battle the blaze that burned through more than 600 acres here Sept. 30. Firefighters from base and local agencies contributed to containing the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Firefighters use tactical skills to battle the blaze that burned through more than 600 acres here Sept. 30. Firefighters from base and local agencies contributed to containing the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Vandenberg Fire and local fire departments respond to a fire that started near Vandenberg’s main gate here Sept. 30 at approximately 11:45 a.m. Over 600 acres were burned by the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Vandenberg Fire and local fire departments respond to a fire that started near Vandenberg’s main gate here Sept. 30 at approximately 11:45 a.m. Over 600 acres were burned by the fire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Andrew Lee)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A combined effort of Vandenberg's fire departments and other base and local agencies lead to a quick response to a fire that started here Sept. 30.

The fire that erupted near Vandenberg's main gate quickly scorched through the dry terrain burning approximately 600 acres.

"Since the day had been windy and the base had not seen rain since February, I immediately thought that this fire could be trouble," said Col. David Buck, the 30th Space Wing commander. "And as it turned out, the fire did give us some trouble."

Due to the quick reaction of emergency responders, there were no injuries or structural facility damage. In a matter of a couple hours, 10 aircraft, 20 fire engines and six bulldozers were on scene. Despite the ever-growing momentum of the fire, emergency responders were able to contain the fire at Pine Canyon here.

"If we had not been able to hold the fire at Pine Canyon, we would have been out there fighting the fire for approximately two weeks instead of two days," said Vandenberg Fire Chief Mark Farias. "The fire would have burned through more of the base's acreage and natural resource assets as well as numerous facilities. In addition, the base's mission may have also been affected by the fire, but with the support we received, we were able to control the fire." 

Firefighting agencies involved with containing the blaze included the United States Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Santa Maria Fire Department, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Montecito Fire Department, Carpinteria Fire Department, Vandenberg Fire and the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron's fire dozer unit.

"This fire was the best example of how the mutual aid agreements we have with local agencies work," Chief Farias said. "Usually, it is us helping local emergency responders out, but it is good to know when we need support from them, they are here. It's all about neighbors helping neighbors, and when our neighbors need help, we'll also be there."

Many other non-firefighting agencies also responded to Vandenberg's fire to support emergency responders. These agencies include the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron's readiness, environmental and operations units. Other 30th Space Wing agencies that played a significant fire support role were the Security Forces Squadron, Contracting Office, Logistics Readiness Squadron, Space Communications Squadron and Public Affairs.

"No single agency could have been able to handle an event of that size," Chief Farias said. "The combined effort worked wonderfully. It forced us to work together, which ultimately brings us closer to the other agencies in the end. I've been at Vandenberg long enough to know that daunting moments here are few and far between, but my proudest moments have been during some of the wing's most troubling times. The wing stands tallest during times of disaster because it brings the best out of everybody and reveals what teamwork is all about."

Vandenberg's leadership applaud the efforts put forth of the men and women who have helped put a stop to the fire.

"Even when faced with an incredible challenge, people from all around came together," Col. Buck said. "Everyone's combined efforts prevented this fire from impacting Vandenberg's mission contributions to air, space and cyberspace."