By 1st Lt. Christian Venhuizen
Public Affairs Specialist
Wyoming National Guard
CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. – There were bumps in the road when Chad Brush, Camp Guernsey’s fire chief, tried to establish a community-centered fire department.
The fire chief recently spoke of discussions with other Platte County fire departments and county officials. From those meetings, Brush said he knew there were fences to mend and a job his fire department needed to accomplish.
“We’re here to protect the community. We’re here to support the community,” said Brush. “We want to build their trust.”
He developed a multi-faceted plan to include outreach to share training opportunities, an increased number of responses to calls for assistance from other fire departments, and improve the professionalism of his fire department.
“If you walk, and look, and act professional, they are going to assume you are professional,” said the chief.
The fire department grew from three to eight firefighters, with the hope of hiring two more in August; and eventually, he said he would like a compliment of 12 firefighters. The new hires allow for multiple shifts to protect aircraft landing at the airfield, handle potential fires throughout the camp, and provide aid to the volunteer fire departments on community calls.
As for taking pride in themselves, the firefighters were provided uniforms including a patch and badge designed by Brush. Their trucks and equipment are washed and maintained, and Brush said he makes sure they are visible and friendly in the community.
Firefighters not only have to have the required training to be hired, but they have to have a personality that fits the community-oriented approach, he said.
The level of professionalism goes beyond the cosmetics. The chief said he is adamant about his department being the primary response to camp emergencies.
His desire to be the first to respond for calls for service on the camp is not a territorial battle with local fire departments, but a sense of pride in managing his own area of responsibility, he said.
“We know the military way. We know what they expect on camp,” he said. “We like to take our own calls. Let us take care of our own and if we can’t get the fire out, for whatever reason, then we’ll rely on surrounding agencies.”
“(The camp’s firefighters) are very well educated and equipped,” said Col. Richard Knowlton, Camp Guernsey’s commander. “It helps us to train the best fighting force in the world.”
Understanding the potential for large fires, both the colonel and the fire chief said the volunteer fire departments and Camp Guernsey still rely on each other for support. However, the goal is to use Camp Guernsey’s fire personnel and equipment to increase support to other agencies.
Support includes calls for assistance to other fire departments, known as mutual aid, which the Camp has provided five times, and received once in 2013, as of July 24.
Support also comes in the form of training.
The camp has classroom space, as well as areas to train wildland firefighting, vehicle maneuver, and entering and clearing a variety of smoke filled buildings.
Brush wants to host emergency medical technician training at the camp, with other plans to host red card training for wildland firefighting, both open to local emergency personnel.
“That’s a good way we can reach out to the community and bring some value added,” Knowlton said. “We’ve tried to make things happen and we actually have done that on several occasions.”
For Brush, the road still has bumps, but there is a renewed sense of community and pride.
“We run with professionalism,” he said. “We run with tact.”