VINTON–Zeph Cunningham, who is a Vinton native, is currently assisting firefighters battling the severe wildfire blazes in California. He started out his current assignment in the Los Angeles area in southern California, but moved on to Redding in northern California at the end of last week.
Cunningham is employed as a Logistics Section Chief for the United States Forest Service (USFS), which is part of the Department of Agriculture, assigned to the Boise National Incident Management Organization (NIMO).
“My NIMO Incident Management Team is assigned to Region 5 of the USFS in California,” said Cunningham. “We are supporting the Regional Office with representation in the field; we travel to incidents, follow up on safety incidents, review procedures, and prepare for new fires. Most recently I was reviewing the National Cache System in California. This is the system that is used to provide supplies to the incidents. Supplies are everything that runs a camp from Personal Protective Equipment for the firefighter to the hose and hardware that fight the fire.”
“This equipment is strategically located around the United States,” added Cunningham. “Supplies are moved around based on priorities.”
NIMO analyzes predicted lightning strikes in a region and then ensures adequate supplies are available to support current and predicted fires.
According to www.fs.usda.gov , the NIMO program is composed of four Incident Management Teams whose primary focus is the management of complex wildland fires. “In addition to fire management, the NIMO teams have year-round non-incident duties in support of Fire and Aviation Management. Among these are: training; quality assurance activities; fuels management; fuels implementation; fire and resource management support; National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) projects; cost containment; and leadership training and development. The teams work as a force multiplier on fire issues that cross agency boundaries. NIMO works with all wildland fire agencies to provide consistency and improve fire management processes.”
Prior to joining the USFS, Cunningham served for 22 years with the National Park Service in law enforcement, security, and emergency services. While with the Park Service, he served for 15 years as Incident Commander on the National Park Service Eastern All Hazard Incident Management Team and as a Logistics Section Chief. He responded to numerous emergencies for the National Park Service including Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, Ivan, Irene, and Dennis, and multiple land-based search and rescue incidents.
As part of his job with the Park Service, he also helped to plan and manage dozens of events for the National Park Service, including three Presidential Inaugurations, the First Flight Centennial, the funeral for Coretta Scott King, the Lincoln Bicentennial, the Jamestown 400, Fort Sumter 150, Manassas Civil War 150, Gettysburg Civil War 150, and the 50th Anniversary events surrounding the Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
His current position also includes serving as an active instructor in training, teaching a multitude of incident management courses for the interagency community.
Cunningham graduated from Virginia Tech in 1994 and resides in Bedford County with his wife Kelly, a budget analyst for the National Park Service, and daughter Lillian.
He is the son of Jim and Judy Cunningham of Vinton.