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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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