Officials mitigate wild fire in tabletop exercise scenario

15 Aug 2014 | Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera

Officials coordinated battling flames during a simulated exercise that engulfed a Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune range in the Greater Sandy Run area and rapidly spread to Onslow County in “Wildland Fire 2014,” a tabletop scenario where officials worked together to manage and control the mock disaster.

Members from agencies throughout MCB Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and Onslow County perfected their plan of attack over a period of two days.

They used three modules which focused on the initial response, controlling an expanding incident, and recovery efforts at the Officers’ Club aboard the base Aug. 5 and 6.

While not all of the agencies present would be taking a hose to the fire, they were all important to suppress the flames should an incident occur, said Rick Scott, an exercise planner with Marine Corps Regional Exercise Team-East and native of Wilmington, N.C.

Participants included representatives from MCB Camp Lejeune’s fire and emergency services, range control, environmental conservation, mission assurance, public affairs, comptroller, emergency management and the emergency operations Center, as well as MCAS New River’s Mission Assurance, Onslow County’s Emergency Management, North Carolina Forestry Service, National Weather Service and Jones Onslow Electric Membership Corporation.

“The purpose of this exercise is to bring the organizations that are needed to mitigate a wild-land fire together,” said Glenn Zurek, a native of Hammond, Indiana, and the deputy fire chief with fire and emergency services aboard MCB Camp Lejeune.

Throughout the exercise they coordinated and looked at policies and procedures, Zurek added. They formulated plans of attack for the scenario and looked for any weaknesses or limitations in the current processes.

“There are things that have to be coordinated between the military and civilian world when you start talking about a major event like this,” said Norman Bryson, a native of Faison, North Carolina, and the director of emergency services for Onslow County.

The exercises have been in place for years and help local communities and installations build a sense of cooperation, which will help create a seamless transition in the case of a disaster, Bryson added.

Other scenarios explored in the past have included pandemic diseases, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, and hazardous material releases among other threats that could affect the military and local communities, said Bryson.

“It works both ways,” said Zurek. “We could be called out to help them.”

The threat for wildfires varies throughout the year depending on factors like weather or humidity, said Pete Steponkus, a native of New Bern, North Carolina, and assistant district forester with the North Carolina Forest Service.

One way members of the community can assist in the fight against wild fires is to remain vigilant of manmade fires and to remove debris and brush that could fuel a wild fire, creating a buffer zone to reduce the risk of being affected by a wild fire, said Zurek.