Canadians Join Northern Rockies Fire Effort

By Beacon Staff

With more than 30 large, uncontained fires burning around the U.S., and resources stretched thin, federal and state agencies in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area have welcomed assistance from Canadian firefighters, who are here with helicopters, air tankers, engines, and wildland firefighting crews. The assistance from Canada is possible through state and federal agreements to share firefighting resources in times of high fire activity.

Five Canadian Type 1 crews from the province of Ontario arrived yesterday and are being oriented to the fire situation and operational procedures today. They will be available for fire duty tomorrow, and can be broken into smaller crews to handle fire assignments ranging from initial attack to extended attack on large fires, such as the Lolo Creek Complex burning south of Missoula.

“With the extreme fire conditions we’ve been experiencing, the difficulty of the terrain where our fires have been occurring, and the shortages of available resources, the crews will be integral to our suppression efforts,” said Jim Kelton, representative for the Northern Rockies Multi-Agency Coordinating (MAC) Group, which coordinates interagency fire operations in the geographic area that includes north Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park. The Canadian crews are comparable to hotshot crews commonly used to fight fires around the U.S.

In Idaho, Canadian engines, helicopter rappel crews, and three additional Type 2 crews are being used to assist with new fire starts and existing large fires. The Canadian assistance in Montana also includes 24 smokejumpers from British Columbia, air tankers and helicopters.

The Northern Rockies reported 61 new fires across the area yesterday, in addition to the nine uncontained large fires already burning. There are seven incident management teams assigned to fires in the Northern Rockies Geographic Area. The Montana National Guard has also joined the firefighting effort after an emergency declaration was signed last week by Montana Governor Steve Bullock.

Resources have been stretched thin in recent weeks, particularly with activity in southern California, where the Rim fire is the top priority in the nation. Last week, the Lolo Creek Complex Fire south of Missoula was the country’s highest concern.

Due to the ongoing shortage of qualified available resources, help from Canada is currently authorized for the next 2-3 weeks. They could be extended beyond that if the fire season in the Northern Rockies continues.

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