Lesson Learned: Missoula First Responders to Take Urban Avalanche Training
On Friday, February 6, Missoula area first responders will be gathering to learn how to deal with an urban avalanche. It’s something Fire Chief Jason Diehl never expected to encounter, but was forced to face last February when an avalanche buried two adults and a child at the base of Mount Jumbo.
"It's nothing that I had seen or anticipated seeing within the city limits," Diehl said. "It really made us realize that we weren't prepared for that. Fortunately, in that instance, we had firefighters that had training from outside the fire department and actually had avalanche probes in their personal vehicles at the fire station."
Diehl says the Mount Jumbo avalanche showed him how basic fire training is insufficient for dealing with an urban avalanche situation.
"In a typical fire response, our first action is to evacuate and get everybody away, but in the Jumbo avalanche situation, the citizens of Missoula were the tremendous resource, and I don't think it would have been possible to rescue those people without their assistance."
Tom Mattice, an emergency programs manager from Juno, Alaska will be flying down to conduct the training. Mattice has extensive knowledge of urban avalanche situations and has a Missoula connection as well, he used to work as a member of the Ski Patrol at Snow Bowl, where some of the training will be held.