The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced today that 18 employees, who are trained as firefighters, from across the state have joined wildfire suppression efforts on a fast-moving blaze that has already burned more than 9,500 acres in western Montana.
The hand crew is comprised of five fire officers, 12 foresters and one surveyor from the DNR; two U.S. Forest Service employees rounded out the crew, which was sent to Lolo, Mont., earlier this week.
“Our staff has been highly trained to handle situations like this and are ready to go whenever and wherever they’re needed,” said Bill O’Neill, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division (FRD). “Cooperative efforts between counties, states and countries are crucial during emergency situations like these. Our thoughts are with those who are out on the line fighting this blaze and the others that are burning out west.”
The DNR will continue to provide assistance to the national fire efforts while fire conditions remain critical. Nationally, there are 50 large uncontained fires currently burning, with 238 new fires that started Wednesday, Aug. 21.
When sent on out-of-state assignments, the DNR is fully reimbursed for all costs associated with the support.
O’Neill stressed that while some employees were sent to assist firefighters in Montana, the state is still well-equipped to handle wildfires should one occur in Michigan.
“The opportunity to assist other states and federal agencies allows DNR staff to improve our skills and maintain high-level qualifications,” O’Neill added. “The skills our men and women pick up when they’re out of state are brought back and utilized when they are managing fires here at home. Additionally, our national cooperative agreement has allowed us to bring national fire suppression resources here to help us. This occurred most recently in 2007 on the 18,000-acre Sleeper Lake Fire and last year on the 20,000-acre Duck Lake Fire.”
The DNR is urging residents and visitors to use caution when lighting any fires as fire dangers are “high” and “very high” throughout much of the state. Burn permits are not being issued in many areas.
For more information about the DNR’s fire management efforts, visit www.michigan.gov/firemanagement.
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