The Heart Mountain Relocation Center – the community in the camp
Corrie N. Cody has stepped aside this week to highlight a guest blogger – Christy Fleming, the manager of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and Heart Mountain Internment Learning Center, has a great story to tell about life within the barbed wire fences of the Relocation Center during World War II.
Did you know that the Heart Mountain Relocation Center had its own award-winning volunteer fire department? The fire department was created out of necessity, staffed by internee volunteers under Caucasian supervision. The barracks, built of tarpaper and wood, were easily ignited by hastily hung electrical wires and heating systems that the residents were unfamiliar with.
Volunteer firemen were soon familiar with tactics for fighting a variety of different types of fires. They were called out for flue fires, brush fires, fires stated in coal containers set outside the buildings, and fires started by children playing with matches. They were also available to help with wildland fires. In August of 1944, eighteen Heart Mountain firefighters were called to help extinguish a forest fire on Cedar Mountain. It took them only 6 hours to put out the fire.
The number of trained firemen changed regularly as the men were granted indefinite and seasonal leave from the camp. Several firemen, committed not only to serving and protecting their community but also the nation, were inducted into the Army. Their places were eagerly filled by other volunteers.
Heart Mountain’s fire department maintained a high standard in both fire fighting and fire prevention. The men conducted fire education programs thoughout the year and did weekly fire inspections. In the winter, weekly inspections included care for the fire alarm boxes and hydrants to make sure they would work properly in the extreme cold weather. The volunteers received constant training in prevention and the latest fire fighting methods. This dedication led the Heart Mountain department to be ranked 26th among all American cities that participated in the 1943 Fire Prevention week and first in the state of Wyoming. In the Fire Prevention Week for 1944, Heart Mountain was again ranked first in the state, and placed 51st among all American cities that participated.
This and many other stories will be told as part of the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center. The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation invites the public to join us for our Grand Opening celebration on August 20, 2011 and to visit often after the opening.