IDNR-Sponsored Fire Crew Assists in Wildland Firefight in Western U.S.

Chris McCloud
IDNR-Sponsored Fire Crew Assists in Wildland Firefight in Western U.S.
SPRINGFIELD, IL � A wildland fire crew sponsored by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) returned recently from a two-week deployment battling the Labrador Fire in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southwest Oregon. 

The IDNR-sponsored Type 2 Initial Attack Wildland Fire Crew included nine IDNR staff, four staff from the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, four local community firefighters, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employee, a city forester from Homewood, and a natural resources management contractor from Geneseo.

Deployment expenses for the Illinois crew (and all other state crews) are reimbursed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Type 2 Initial Attack Crew members, all of whom have specialized training in wildland firefighting, typically use hand equipment including shovels and chainsaws to dig fire lines and clear brush and fallen trees that could provide fuel to the advancing wildfire, providing a fire line barrier to the further advance of a fire.

�We are proud of the hardworking, dedicated individuals on this team for answering the call to the western fires deployment this summer,� said IDNR Director Marc Miller.  �Our IDNR staff and other members of this well-trained firefighting crew spent two weeks enduring long days doing hot, dusty, smoky work to assist partner agencies in battling a dangerous wildland fire in the Pacific Northwest.�

The Illinois crew, at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center, joined other crews from Missouri, Indiana and Ohio in departing for Salt Lake City on July 22.  Concerns of lightning-sparked fires in Utah and Idaho did not materialize, resulting in the Illinois crew being dispatched to help battle the Labrador Fire in Oregon. 

From a base in Selma, Oregon, the Illinois Type 2 crew spent nine days preparing fire lines prior to ending the deployment and returning to Illinois earlier this month. 

�The ability to deploy staff to large wildland fires has provided Illinois and the IDNR with highly qualified and experienced firefighters.  These trained crew members, in turn, assist in wildland fire protection and prescribed fire operations here in Illinois,� said Tom Wilson, IDNR Forest Protection Program manager.

Nationally, the Forest Service reports there are more than 35 uncontained wildland fires, mostly in the western U.S., which have burned more than 750,000 acres this year. 

The IDNR has been training and sponsoring qualified �red carded� wildland firefighters since 2004, sending crews to assist other agencies on fires in Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia, Arizona, California, Idaho and Oregon.  To be a qualified red-carded entry-level wildland firefighter, individuals must take specific wildland firefighting courses, pass work-capacity tests annually (3-mile walk with a 45-pound vest in less than 45 minutes), and attend annual fire refresher course.  There are approximately 10,000 red-carded wildland firefighters in the U.S.

Members of the IDNR-sponsored Type 2 Initial Attack Crew who deployed to the Labrador Fire in Oregon:

Wade Bloemer, IDNR Div. of Forest Resources
Stefanie Fitzsimmons, IDNR Office of Realty and Environmental Planning
Tom Gargrave, IDNR Div. of Forest Resources
Dave Griffith, IDNR Div. of Forest Resources
Rich Lewis, IDNR Office of Realty and Environmental Planning
Bob Lindsay, IDNR Div. of Natural Heritage
Bob Massey, IDNR Div. of Wildlife Resources
Jay Massey, IDNR Office of Land Management
Tom Wilson, IDNR Div. of Forest Resources
Lance Brown, Shawnee National Forest
Mike Hancock, Shawnee National Forest
Allen Johnston, Shawnee National Forest
Cody Mann, Shawnee National Forest
Chris Hopfinger, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Eric Heimos, West County EMS and Fire (Missouri)
Curt Martin, Fox Lake Fire Dept.
Hector Trimmer, Freeport Fire Dept.
Jason Sartin, LaSalle Fire Dept.
Jim Tresouthic, Homewood Village Forester
Matt Schramm, Geneseo, Thunder Paws Prescribed Fire Management
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