Wildfire During Fundraiser Causes Evacuation of 200 People

As president of the Idaho State Bowhunters, Tad Sherman had dedicated many hours to planning their biggest fundraiser and membership driver of the year — a 3-day event where nearly 1,500 people gather to celebrate Idaho’s bowhunting heritage and learn how to ethically participate in the sport.

All that planning, however, couldn’t have prepared Sherman for what occurred.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, one day into the event in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, Sherman looked up into the central Idaho hills and saw something he didn’t expect. Smoke was hurtling up from the trees, and it was close enough to their base camp — a mile from the nearest major road — to make him nervous.

“I realized that with the wind, the fire was moving fast, and it was heading right toward where everybody was camped,” Sherman said. “I keep my inReach® on me all the time while I’m up there, so I just pulled it out and hit the SOS button.”

Using his inReach Explorer+, he communicated with the staff at the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) to explain the situation.

“Fire. Lots of campers,” Sherman wrote. “Need fire response.”

Within 25 minutes, Forest Service members and the local sheriff had arrived. The fire quickly approached to within 200 yards of where members were set up to camp that night, fueled by dry timber in the forest and grass in the meadow.

“We had 200 campers to get evacuated out of the meadow,” Sherman said. “So while emergency services were working on the fire, I was messaging everybody else to warn them of the fire and the potential for danger. I was trying to get people out of there as fast as I could.”

About 2 hours after triggering the SOS, Sherman messaged the IERCC again.

“All out safe,” he wrote. “Thank you.”

Over the next several days, the Vader Fire burned nearly 450 acres and required 360 personnel plus aircrafts and airtankers to extinguish fully. Some of the Idaho State Bowhunters targets went up in smoke, but everybody got out with all of their personal property. The event had been suspended, but Sherman was thankful it wasn’t worse.

“Watching how the inReach SOS communication worked was amazing,” he said. “We were able to get people out fast, and more of our public lands didn’t get destroyed because we were able to get the right people there working to put it out as fast as possible.”

More Than a Satellite Phone

Previous to investing in an inReach device, Sherman had a satellite phone. “I didn’t like it because of sketchy service and the need to use minutes,” he said.

Some of his hunting partners had begun using inReach devices, so he invested in one, too — and is glad he did.

“The confidence that I have in it now is tenfold,” Sherman said.

As someone who likes to spend time traveling to remote deserts and mountains, that confidence is something he really appreciates. He just got back from a trip to Alaska, where he used the device to message with his children.

“I like that I can always check in, and being able to use it on your phone makes it super easy,” he said. “The confidence of knowing that something works is just … special.”

To access the Iridium satellite network for live tracking and messaging, including SOS capabilities, an active satellite subscription is required.
NOTICE: Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of satellite communications devices. It is the responsibility of the user to know and follow all applicable laws in the jurisdictions where the device is intended to be used.