Friday, August 21, 2015

NJ Forest Fire Service Crew in Montana fighting wildfires

In an article I wrote on August 18th on the wildfires burning in the western USA, I mentioned that the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) had deployed 32 wildland firefighters to help battle the wildfires burning out west with trucks going to Oregon and a crew of NJFFS wildland firefighters going to Idaho, Montana, or Oregon. See this August 16th article from the NJ Herald for more information.

I knew that the NJFFS crew was in Montana and that they are already working on their second fire. It wasn't until today that I had some specific information to share. That is, a crew of 20 NJFFS wildland firefighters is currently assigned to the Morrell Complex of wildland fires that has burned 476 acres in the Lolo National Forest, the fire is at 15 percent containment. The most current information on this fire may be found at the Morrell Complex Inciweb page. I am going to quote some information that I found on the Morrell Complex Inciweb page at the time that I am writing this article (4:05 PM on August 21st), the information is current as of August 21st at 10:45 AM:
Summary: Another very active fire day today (Friday) which is expected to have similar conditions as yesterday, but leaning towards slightly cooler temperatures and stronger winds causing a RED FLAG WARNING to be in effect. Winds will be shifting from southwest to northeast direction with gusts nearing 45 mph. A cold front will be passing through with a 20% chance of wetting rain in the evening. The fire is now estimated to be 476 acres. The percent contained changed from 25% to 15% yesterday due to the fire growing beyond established firelines on the eastern flanks. Over 120 members of the public joined together at a community meeting last night to hear the latest strategies and meet local fire management officials. 
Resources: Heavy equipment continues to be the primary resource on hand for the fire. This includes one 20-person handcrew from New Jersey, 3 excavators, 1 feller-buncher, 3 water tenders, 4 engines, 1 dozer, 5 “skidgines” and a helicopter with bucket for line work and initial attack. A total of 107 firefighters, including overhead, are currently working on the fire. Resource orders have been placed for additional hand crews, miscellaneous overhead and safety officers. (emphasis added)
I am very proud to have a crew of wildland firefighters helping fight the Morrell Complex of wildfires. I am sure that Montana appreciates the help.

As I was preparing to write this blog post, I found this August 20th article on NJ dot com, a nice article about one of the NJFFS wildland firefighters, Sean Riley.  Riley is working on the crew in Montana. Riley is the head of the Newfield NJ Fire Department. Riley explains in the article about some of the testing that is involved in being a wildland firefighter and volunteering for out-of-state duty (Riley put his name on list of NJFFS wildland firefighters willing to do out-of-state duty in 2015) in this excerpt from the August 20th article:
"You take a three-mile pack test where you have 45 pounds on your back. You have to cover [that distance] in 45 minutes," Riley said. The pack test is just one of several rounds of qualifications firefighters must go through before they're cleared to take on jobs of this magnitude. 
When the U.S. Forest Service puts out the call for volunteers, firefighters have two days to respond. If they accept, the firefighters are sent to the scene for a two-week assignment. 
"You know when you sign up that it's going to be last-minute," said Riley. "You don't know when it'll happen. It's a matter of when the fires reach a certain point."
I have heard that the NJFFS trucks (three type 4 engines and their crew) may be in Oregon, I'm not quite sure where.

Updated on August 22, 2015: According to this August 21st press release from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the three NJFFS trucks that arrived in the west on August 17th were assigned to work wildland fires in Washington and are still there. This same press release also mentions that the New Jersey Forest Fire Service is sending an additional 20 wildland fires out west to help fight wildfires out west.

New Jersey Forest Fire Service Wildland Firefighters in state and working out of state, you rock and I am proud of you. Stay safe.

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