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Tag Archive | "firefighters"

Michigan DNR wildfire fighters help battle western blazes


Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildland firefighters are on the scene in Montana to help with fires around the state. Michigan personnel on loan in Montana include two three-man engine crews and an incident management team. Photo by Michigan DNR firefighter Cory Mallory.

Helicopters fly over a burning hillside in Montana recently as firefighters work to control a grass fire. Two Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildland fire engines staffed by two three-man crews as well as an incident management team are in Montana now helping with fire suppression efforts. Photo by Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Surrounded by smoke, constantly watching the wind and trying to tamp down fast-moving flames, Michigan Department of Natural Resources firefighters using two specially equipped fire trucks have been helping battle grass and forest wildfires in Montana since mid-July.

They may do what firefighters call “black lining”—purposely burning a strip of grass to deprive an approaching wildfire of fuel and stop it in its tracks.

Or they may “wet line”—dousing combustible materials in the path of a fire to keep a blaze from spreading.

Or they might, during a breather from work, do what any of us would: whip out cell phones to shoot a quick video as a low-flying tanker plane releases a belly full of water over a hot spot of burning trees, brush or grass.

“Statistically, it’s the grasses that are the most dangerous. They move fast and burn quick,” said Ben Osterland, who led one of two three-man teams that drove the Michigan fire engines to Montana.

Fires have consumed more than half a million acres across Montana so far this season, and Michigan wildland firefighters are playing critical roles in helping put them out. The engines remain in Montana and a third set of crews rotated into the fire zone this week.

In mid-July, Osterland and Cory Mallory each led an engine team, driving the massive, four-wheel-drive vehicles from Michigan to Montana on a 20-hour trek at speeds that maxed out around 64 miles per hour to work long days and live under sometimes primitive conditions.

“Montana absolutely loved our people and they love our trucks,” said Lee Osterland, who also worked on an incident management team in Montana this summer. “It’s a really good opportunity to help another state out.” Michigan firefighters also are serving in Oregon and Washington state now and spent time in Arizona and British Columbia earlier this summer.

The four-wheel-drive fire vehicles are equipped with brush guards and a winch. They carry 800 gallons of water as well as a pump and two reels of hose.

When laying a wet line, the driver may drive slowly along while another firefighter walks alongside, spraying water, and the passenger sprays water from nozzles controlled from inside the cab. Then they set a fire between the wet line and the advancing fire.

“You burn the fuel in front of the fire, so you are essentially fighting fire with fire,” Mallory said.

Firefighters might stay in hotels if the blaze is close to a big-enough city, but they often camp near the site or even sleep in their trucks.

“Where I was, we slept in the dirt,” Ben Osterland said. “We were in tents every night. Some nights, we were on the night shift and we would sleep during the day, when it was the hottest.”

For several days in a row, his crew ate only prepackaged military meals; they also went 10 long days without a shower. But living conditions weren’t the hardest part, he said.

“We were away from cell phone service and you could go days without talking to anyone back home,” he said.

“At the same time, you meet a lot of great people when you’re out there. I’ve created a lot of friendships from those trips. I have met a lot of great people.”

Mallory also says the hardship is worth it, especially when you’re talking to a rancher whose cattle might go hungry if the fire spreads.

“You know you’re making a difference,” he said.

As they work in other states, Michigan firefighters gain valuable experience and earn additional certifications. For example, Mallory started his firefighting career as a key man – a temporary, on-call firefighter – during the Upper Peninsula’s Duck Lake Fire in 2012. Since then, he has worked fires in Georgia and Missouri as well and earned certifications to become a crew leader.

“I was a little nervous when I first got out there, I didn’t know what to expect,” Mallory said of being a crew leader. “But when you work with a team you can trust, it gives you peace of mind.”

The Department of Natural Resources is fully reimbursed for all costs associated with sending firefighters on out-of-state blazes. Learn more about DNR firefighting efforts at michigan.gov/firemanagement.

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Fire in garage spreads to home


This fire spread from the garage to the home within minutes. Post photo by J. Reed.

This fire spread from the garage to the home within minutes. Post photo by J. Reed.

Firefighters were on the scene for four hours Monday at this fire on 17 Mile Rd in Tyrone Township.

Firefighters were on the scene for four hours Monday at this fire on 17 Mile Rd in Tyrone Township.

By Judy Reed

The Kent City/Tyrone Township Fire Department was called to the scene of a garage fire at 720 17 Mile Road, just east of Paine, at 9:42 a.m. Monday, April 25. It was just to the east of the Kent County Sheriff Department’s north substation.

“We arrived on scene at 9:59 a.m., and the fire was already impeding into the roof area of the house,” said Kent City Fire Chief Mike Rexford. He explained that unfortunately, there were no firebreaks between the roof and attic of the garage, and the roof and attic of the home.

Fire departments assisting Kent City at the scene were Sparta, Solon, and Algoma. “They all came with water and manpower,” said Rexford. “During the day we are just not blessed with as many personnel.”

They cleared the scene at 2:10 p.m.

The homeowner George Counts, and his wife, were home at the time and got out safely. No one was injured.

Rexford said that the cause of the blaze was accidental. The owner had discarded ashes out of his pellet stove, into the trash in the garage. He thought that they were no longer hot.

Rexford said firefighters were able to get some things out of the home, and that the retired couple returned the next day and salvaged a few other things. “It will probably be a total loss,” he said of the home. It was insured.

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DNR urges caution with fire as hunters head to the woods


 

With warm weather, remember to check for burn permits before burning yard debris

With dry conditions expected throughout much of the state this week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is urging hunters, and folks out cleaning up their yards, to keep fire safety in mind.

“There is a chance for rain tonight, but overall it’s very dry throughout much of the state,” said Jim Fisher, DNR state fire supervisor. “The DNR is reminding everyone enjoying their time in the woods, or those at home cleaning their yards, to be careful with campfires and debris burning this next week. If you do decide burn yard debris, remember to check the burn permit website or call the DNR’s toll-free number to check if burn permits are being issued in your area.”

The DNR encourages residents with Internet access to visit www.michigan.gov/burnpermit to get their burn permits online. Residents can use the interactive map to find the burn conditions in their area. If a “yes” is shown in the “burning permits issued” column, burning is allowed for that day. There is no need to print anything; this serves as a burn permit.

For those who prefer to get their burn permits by phone, the DNR’s toll-free burn permit number is 866-922-2876.

Dry conditions paired with increased outdoor activity had DNR firefighters, along with local fire departments, responding to 12 fires on 60 acres across the state last week. Firefighters’ actions saved seven structures, and only one outbuilding was lost.

Three of the fires were caused by campfires and four were started by people burning yard debris.

Fisher said these recent fires served as a reminder to be safe if camping while hunting.

“Keep an eye on your fire and extinguish it so it’s out cold before you leave it,” he said. “A good rule of thumb for anyone burning outdoors is to always have water and tools available when burning.”

For more information about wildfire prevention, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires. To check if burn permits are being issued in your area, go to www.michigan.gov/burnpermit.

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Michigan welcomes home firefighters


Michigan DNR staff and equipment return from 22 weeks in Texas

After spending 22 weeks in Texas, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is happy to welcome home state firefighters that have been diligently working to stem the wildfires that have burned throughout Texas.
Under an interagency agreement that all 50 states participate in, the Michigan DNR sent four tractors/plows and eight staff to Texas in mid-June.  Staff rotated through every two to three weeks, with over 40 DNR staffers having spent time in Texas.  The last of the crews and equipment returned home on Nov. 18.
“Fighting wildfires is dangerous, which is why we are happy to report that all of the Michigan DNR staff returned unharmed,” says Scott Heather, section manager for the Resource Protection & Cooperative Programs of the Michigan DNR.  “Additionally, the State of Texas will reimburse the department for all of the costs associated with having the staff and equipment down there for 22 weeks.”
Firefighters from 43 states fought more than 29,000 blazes across almost 4 million acres of land since wildfire season began on Nov. 15, 2010.  Michigan firefighters battled two of the largest fires – the Bastrop County Complex and the 101 Ranch, saving many homes.
“The unprecedented wildfires in Texas this year were just another example of why these types of interagency agreements are so important,” says Heather.  “Due to the favorable weather in Michigan this summer and fall, the threat of wildfires was low, allowing us to lend our services and equipment to Texas for an extended period of time.”
This was the longest period of time that Michigan has lent staff and equipment to another state for the purpose of fighting fires.  Michigan has a long history of providing equipment and staff to other states and has also benefited greatly from the interagency agreement.  Most recently in 2007 during the Sleeper Lake fires in Luce County, over 230 firefighters from around the Midwest battled the 18,500-acre fire.

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Fire training a reminder to be safe on the road


by Beth Altena

Jaws of Life

TOYS OF THE TRADE—Fire fighters use the Jaws of Life to open the side of a car. Among tips firefighters learned was to be careful to put the jaws against the solid components of the vehicle. If they only engage the body of the car the door is torn apart but the structure remains unaffected. Photo by B. Altena.

Courtland Township Fire Chief Mickey Davis used a training practice as a chance to remind the public that cars are not a mobile shield of armor and to always be vigilant about safety while driving. On Thursday, May 26, Courtland and Montcalm fire fighters used a car donated to the department to practice techniques to release people trapped in cars. The practice took place in the parking lot of Courtland Township Hall, on 14 Mile Road (M-57).

Davis described to the other firefighters the importance of disconnecting the car’s battery during a rescue. He said making sure the airbags don’t deploy during the extraction is important and he advised putting a blanket over victims before breaking glass or if they are in a position to be injured by the rescue process. Davis was especially happy to work with a new cutting tool, with the flexibility to turn in tight places. That piece of equipment normally costs $4,000 new, but the department was able to obtain a demo for considerably less.

firefighters breaking glass

BREAKING GLASS—Before breaking a vehicle’s window, firefighters would have placed a blanket over any victim likely to be sprayed by the debris. Photo by B. Altena.

Another new piece of equipment for the department is a new electronic light system that can be activated either from the fire station or the Rockford Ambulance substation located next door. When a call for service comes in, firefighters or paramedics are able to activate a signboard on the road, warning drivers that rescue vehicles are entering the roadway. According to Davis, it is another safety factor for the first responders and was purchased and installed by the Kent County Road Commission.

After the demolition, which included opening all four doors, breaking all the windows and taking the roof off the car, Davis had it displayed in front of the township’s sign with the message “Your Safety First.” Davis said he also plans to have a message warning drivers not to text while behind the wheel. He said texting while driving has become a major problem in recent years.

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