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DNR firefighters help fight wildland blazes out west 

A DNR firefighter snapped this shot of a helicopter in action earlier this summer on assignment assisting firefighters in Colorado. DNR firefighters are currently helping fight wildland fires in several western states.

More than a dozen wildland firefighters from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have been sent to California, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere to battle wildfires and to gain valuable firefighting experience.

A crew of three firefighters has taken a DNR fire engine to help fight the vast and still raging Carr fire in northern California, said Dan Laux, fire section manager for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. Laux just returned from a two-week fire assignment in Portland, Oregon, mobilizing resources to battle fires in Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho.

“We’re mobilizing as many people as we can to assist wherever necessary,” Laux said. “It’s a great way for our folks to get experience, while providing their own skills and experiences to the situation at hand.”

Assistance agreements go both ways. If a significant fire occurs in Michigan, firefighters from other states and Canadian provinces can be tapped for help. Michigan’s largest recent fire was the Duck Lake blaze in the eastern Upper Peninsula, which burned more than 21,000 acres in 2012.

Since the beginning of the year, Michigan has sent firefighters to California, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

The Carr fire in northern California has burned more than 100,000 acres to date, causing six deaths. Fire officials there put out a national request last week for wildland fire engines from across the nation, and a three-man crew took a Michigan truck from the DNR’s Gladwin unit to California.

The DNR always keeps enough firefighters in the state to respond to any fires that might occur, though fire activity has slowed after recent rains in the northern portion of the state. The DNR also is fully reimbursed for the cost of sending firefighters to assist elsewhere.

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