Sierra Vista, Arizona, a city near the Mexican border with a population of 43,000 people has been heavily impacted by the Monument fire looming just south of the city. (Scroll down to see a map of the fire.) Some of the city’s employees are among the 10,000 people that are still evacuated from their homes but many of them are still staffing call center phone lines and performing their regular jobs while smoke from the fire that has destroyed 58 homes drifts over the city.
Bill Paxton, the Information officer for Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, has praised the city for their preparedness and for having trained their employees in the use of the Incident Command System. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Sierra Vista Herald/Review:
SIERRA VISTA — While the City of Sierra Vista’s role in responding to the dangers posed by the Monument Fire has been secondary to federal agencies, by all accounts the city’s approach has been exceptionally proactive. Among its most important duties has been getting vital information to those who need it, most importantly to area residents.
The Northern Rockies Incident Management Team is leading area efforts and Bill Paxton, who is working as the public information officer, has never been so impressed with a city’s preparedness in all 40 years of his experience dealing with emergencies.
“This is the most organized city that I have met in my entire fire career, in terms of the management of the emergency response to this wildland fire incident,” Paxton said. “I’ve been with a lot of cities and usually you have to bring them along in the process. It’s a learning experience; it takes about a week to get them where you want them.”
When he walked into the Sierra Vista City Hall that was simply not the case. Instead Paxton said, “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
The city’s staff is trained in the National Incident Management System and that showed immediately.
“It’s almost like having a little incident management team already set up here … and I’m just a cog in something that’s already running,” Paxton said. “This is the first city I’ve ever been to that I’ve seen this. I’ve been in all the corners of the country.”
He hopes other cities use Sierra Vista as a model for emergency response in the future.
Paxton is heading the team’s Joint Information Center, which is tasked with providing timely and accurate information to the public as its four phone lines literally average a phone call every 15 seconds when it is needed most.
More information about the Monument fire.