How the Arizona Interagency Dispatch Center helps battle wildfires on state land

Any fire burning on state land in Arizona is dispatched through a center in Phoenix that sends resources out to battle the flames.

We're getting an inside look at what the center does on July 10 on a little bit of a quieter afternoon after several fires broke out the day before.

"It is quiet right now. It can change literally any time," Kurt Lehner, assistant center manager at Arizona Interagency Dispatch Center, said. "Yesterday it was just like this until it wasn't."

Tuesday afternoon, workers at the Arizona Interagency Dispatch Center were busy helping to organize crews to fight the Ray and Shake fires in Pinal County.

Lehner says each fire dispatch starts with either a phone call or someone radioing in.


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"From there, it's tons of phone calls, tons of calls on the radio. At times, all of these people will be on the phone and the phone will just keep ringing and ringing," Lehner said.

Engines, water tankers, hand crews and air attacks can all be sent out from this center depending on the size and speed of a fire. Back at the dispatch center, crews are monitoring conditions using various websites and maps to report back to crews on their way to the scene.

"Before they get there, we can tell them to expect wind and temperatures of this, wind gusts of this," Lehner explained.

There is also a map for deciphering what agency will take the lead on a fire.

"This one's important for us because we manage land across the entire state," Lehner said.

The response to wildfires is a constantly changing task.

"If we get an initial smoke report, it might only be one engine that goes, but if we start hearing that they're on their way, and they see a giant column, and it's definitely a big deal, we'll start making those things start happening sooner rather than later and getting more stuff going that way," Lehner said.

With several departments working through the dispatch center, sometimes the biggest task is just knowing where all the resources are, but there's technology for that, too.