MADISON - Increased wildfire activity in the northwest and Canadian province of British Columbia has prompted a request to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fire control program to assist in suppression and protection efforts.
Three Type 6 fire engines (four-wheel drive truck carrying 270 plus gallons of water) staffed with three operators per unit, are headed to Lame Deer, Montana near the Cheyenne Indian Reservation and will be assisting in initial attack operations while local resources continue to be exhausted with steady fire activity. In addition, seven firefighters are also en route to aid in fire suppression efforts in British Columbia, Canada through an agreement Wisconsin has with Ontario and the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact.
"With the recent widespread rain and flooding we've seen over the last couple of weeks here in Wisconsin, our fire risk is at a minimum. Unfortunately, the northwest has not been so lucky," says Trent Marty, WDNR Forest Protection Director. "They need assistance and it's with great pride we can offer our support."
Personnel and fire suppression equipment are allocated to these fires through mutual aid agreements outlined by federal firefighting agencies and the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact which is comprised of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario, Canada. The Compact's main goal is to promote resource sharing throughout the great lakes region, including personnel, equipment, information and technology.
"Requests like this from other agencies are not uncommon. Last year was a very active year and this could set the stage for another active fire season, especially in the southeastern US which is typically more active in late summer and early fall. In 2016, we sent resources to 31 different wildfire incidents across 16 states, plus engines and operators to Ontario," said Marty. "Over the years, we have brought out-of-state resources into Wisconsin too. Everyone benefits from this type of effort."
The sharing of federal and provincial resources is an approach that helps all agencies involved make more efficient use of available resources. Other added values with these out-of-state fires include increased training opportunities and the ability to gain outside experience which can be brought home to enhance fire management programs.
Currently, there are 119 active wildfires burning over a million acres in the US alone. Most of this wildfire activity is occurring in Montana, Idaho and Nevada and are related to dry lightning strikes in dense wooded areas with remote access.
The firefighters and engines from Wisconsin are slated to be on assignment for two weeks or until the fire severity subsides. Several more Wisconsin single resources have been made available and could be assigned to fires in the coming weeks.