Chase Marshall is the new fire management officer (FMO) for the Superior National Forest. Prior to arriving in Minnesota, he was FMO for six years at the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, Maine.
Welcome to Paul Lundgren, the new Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) state fire section manager.
Working progressively into DNR leadership positions, Paul brings 21 years of forestry and fire experience. Beginning as a smoke-chaser for three seasons out of the DNR Zimmerman Forestry Station, Paul was hired permanently in 1996 as a field forester in Wannaska. Other Division of Forestry (DoF) areas he worked at include Warroad, Pequot Lakes, Backus, Brainerd and Grand Rapids offices. More recently, Paul served as assistant forestry manager in the northeast region. He supervised, implemented and integrated DoF programs, activities, policies and budgets.
Paul has proven forestry and fire management experience and looks forward to working with fire section staff and Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) partners. He is now located at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) in Grand Rapids.
His first day as fire section manager was Aug. 31 at the Minnesota State Fair working at the fire tower. Paul and wife, Lynn, have three children: Olivia (16 years), Madelynn (14 years) and Mason (9 years).
Keep ’em coming!
MNICS members and friends, thanks for your “What I Did on My Summer Fire Assignment” submissions. We will post as many as we get. You can send them to email@example.com
Doreen Deutsch, from the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area, State & Private Forestry Office in St. Paul, Minnesota wrote to us about her first western fire assignment at the Lava Fire, Shoshone National Forest in Dubois, Wyoming. She worked as a Personnel Time Recorder for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team which eventually transferred command to a Type 1 team. Doreen said it was great to have other Minnesotans as finance team members but also meeting folks from other states. She looks forward to working at another fire out west next summer.
In July, Minnesota DNR’s Mike Bates joined seven Division of Forestry staff to form a module that accompanied helicopter 19BH, which was stationed in Douglas, Wyoming for part of the summer.
Bates said the crew did bucket work, reconnaissance, crew and cargo shuttles on a number of fires including Baldy Peak, Middle Ridge, Rock Pile and Harmon Heights. “We staffed helicopter 19BH, which is on contract with the state of Minnesota, but is offered up to help out other states during summer months,” Bates said.
Fifteen years ago, the DNR set up a Map Mobile unit that would bring mobile mapping technology to the scene of remote wildfires. The unit’s first call: New York City and the deadly scene of what is now known simply as 9/11.
Within days of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center that killed thousands, seven DNR forestry employees were called on to help search and recovery crews, with five of these called to assist with mapping the attack’s aftermath in a 16-acre area of lower Manhattan.
Though it sounds complex, more difficult for Paul Olson, a GIS analyst in Grand Rapids, was working amid “all of the tragedy. So many people lost their lives. Technically it wasn’t a challenge. It was the emotional toll.”
At Ground Zero, he stood in awe of the devastation while taking photos to include in an overview map.
“You felt like you were watching history,” he said of the two-week assignment in mid-September 2001.
They mapped and recorded locations of “significant findings,” such as plane parts, casualties and personal items like jewelry, purses and wallets. Some maps pinpointed potential safety hazards where heavy equipment such as cranes were located or hot spots where below ground fires were still burning. Maps were constantly updated as the search continued.
Tim Aunan, who left the DNR in 2013, recalled the many fires burning all around the rubble of what they called “the pile” and the strong smell of jet fuel. “You could also smell death,” said Aunan, now a natural resources instructor at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids. His memories of the tragedy often come to him when he teaches a dendrology class and how to identify the downy arrowwood plant with its smell of rotting flesh. “It sort of reminds me of that smell of 9/11,” he said. “Every time I teach it I can smell it.”
Olson said the DNR team got the call to help because they are part of the National Incident Management System. “We were credentialed and experienced. We had the mobile equipment and we were ready.”
Of the seven DNR employees who were on the scene in New York, Olson and Cindy Tisdell are still with the agency. Tisdell, office manager in the Bemidji area office, was an ordering manager for recovery equipment and supplies.
Watch a video created by the communications team in October 2001.
Wanted: Details about your summer fire assignment
We asked Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) members and friends to submit “What I Did on My Summer Fire Assignment” photos and recollections. Thanks for emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is our first installment.
Minnesota Interagency Fire Center’s Ginger Humphrey recently worked at the Berry Fire dispatch center in Moose, Wyoming. She stayed in Jackson Hole and quickly made friends with fellow dispatchers from Alaska, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The dispatch office window overlooked the Snake River where wildlife was abundant and in plain view at Yellowstone National Park.
Last month MIFC crew #3, led by Adam Cook (USFS), was assigned to the 41,700-acre Rail Fire near Unity, Oregon. Hard work, positive attitudes, safety and ingenuity prevailed. The crew spent their days “holding the fire line and watching the green for smoke.” Before demobilizing, Meghan Ring (DNR) took a crew shot using a newly constructed ‘firefighter selfie stick’ made of duct tape, a combi tool and a smart phone.
As of today, the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center had 142 personnel on assignment in 11 states. Mobilized resources include 7 aircraft, 1 crew and 30 trucks or engines. Minnesota Incident Command System members have traveled to California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Update from the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Eighth crew of the season is mobilized
Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) crew #3, under crew bosses Adam Cook and Jeremy Pace, U.S. Forest Service, left the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) this evening to pre-position at the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Cadillac, Michigan.
Aug. 5, 1949: Lessons from the Mann Gulch Fire
Sixty seven years ago on a sweltering summer day lightning sparked a wildfire that spread into a funnel-shaped canyon in Montana’s Helena National Forest. Sixteen smokejumpers left Missoula to fight the Mann Gulch Fire, where the Missouri River meets the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. Between two distinctly different geographical regions, the canyon had dense pine growth on one side and a thick carpet of mixed timber and prairie grass on the other.
Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) crew #2, led by DNR’s Mike Lichter, left Grand Rapids this evening for a pre-position order to the Northern Rockies Coordinating Center (NRCC), Missoula, Montana. As fires begin to pick up in the west, crews are rostered quickly and spend fewer days on national availability lists.
“We are refining the system to contact available crew members, line up equipment and resources, and get them on the road quickly but safely,” said MIFC coordinator Rebekah Luedtke.
This is the seventh crew mobilized since mid-June. Meanwhile, MNICS crew #2 returned from Nevada on Saturday, July 30 and MNICS crew #3 is expected to arrive from Colorado tomorrow, Aug. 2. MNICS crew #1 will demobilize later this week from its two-week assignment at the Cliff Creek Fire in Wyoming.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Forestry has recognized Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) staff Terry Flatley and Diane Nygaard with the Team Award of Excellence for outstanding service. Co-nominated by MIFC coordinators B.J. Glesener, Rebekah Luedtke and Todd Manley, the pair works closely to process Incident Qualification System (IQS) items for task books and red cards issued to nearly 3,000 statewide recipients. Together, Terry and Diane have a combined 42 years of state experience. They received their awards at a DNR ceremony last week at Gunn Park near Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
Minnesota fire crews head west, come home
The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) mobilized its sixth crew to a western fire this week. Nearly 300 personnel were on assignment in about a dozen states. On Monday, a nine-member helicopter crew left Hibbing for the Bench Fire at Dinosaur National Monument. Today they are headed to southwestern Wyoming to help with fires there. On Tuesday, a 20-member fire crew left Grand Rapids for the Pike and San Isabel National Forest in central Colorado.
Minnesota crews are in demand
This year the western fire season is off to a slow start. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) the number of U.S. fires is down 72 percent below the 10-year average. Despite this, Minnesota crews and incident personnel are getting assignments and heading west. Skill, a strong work ethic and good attitude has helped Minnesota crews build a solid reputation in the fire community.
Taking an interagency approach
Through interagency agreements the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the National Park Service, Minnesota State Fire Marshal and State Fire Chiefs Association work together. This approach leverages resources, increases efficiency and avoids duplication of effort that saves taxpayer money.
“It works because we work together,” said Rebekah Luedtke, MIFC Dispatch Coordinator. “The Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) uses an interagency approach and the ICS model for all-hazard emergency response, including fires, floods or weather-related emergencies.”
The incident command system (ICS) is a framework involving local, state and federal agencies that work together in an emergency situation. It was developed by a task force in California after a spate of devastating wildfires there in the 1980s. ICS is organized around five major management activities: command, operations, planning, logistics, finance and administration. Minnesota was an early adopter of ICS for wildfire suppression.
All hazard assistance provided
Primarily, MNICS teams and crews assist with wildland fires. However, an incident management team (see report) was activated last week during the northern Minnesota ‘blow down’ which left nearly 70,000 people without power and caused significant damage to communities, forests and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). When all-hazard events occur MNICS partners with agencies such as Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State Emergency Operations Center.
News from the crews
In spring crews came from Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and other western states to help with fires in Minnesota. With mutual aid agreements through the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, MNICS crews help out on western fires and look forward to gaining valuable experience over the summer. MIFC assistant dispatch coordinator Tasha Woodwick said local resources are put on a national availability list with agency staff having first priority.
“We have three regular Type 2 initial attack crews and pulled another crew from our availability list,” said Woodwick. “We hope to put another crew out again soon and are balancing rosters among agencies and single resources.” During the past week MNICS crews have been in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. MNICS crew #2 and #3 are heading back to Minnesota after two-week assignments.
MNICS crew #1
One of 17 crews at the Cliff Creek Fire in Wyoming, MNICS crew #1 is led by Nick Hasty, U.S. Forest Service. They are among 771 personnel at the 21,438-acre fire that is 15 percent contained. The crew has been at spike camp in a remote location.
MNICS crew #2
Previously at the Hayden Pass Fire and the Little Den Fire in Nevada, the crew worked on the Carico Fire before heading home yesterday. Conditions were hot and dry (near 110 degrees) and the crew even encountered rattlesnakes along the fire line. Adam Cook (USFS) led this crew. In between assignments he arranged a visit to Storm King Mountain, where 14 firefighters died in a 1994 South Canyon Colorado wildfire. This tragedy helped shape future wildfire procedures and safety precautions.
MNICS crew #3
Led by Nick Abel, the crew was originally at the Hayden Pass Fire and then helped with initial attack and mop up at the Cecil Mines Fire in Colorado. Today, they head back to Minnesota.
MIFC crew #1
Led by Ryan Halvorson (USFS), the crew left MIFC on Tuesday, July 26 and were pre-positioned at the Pike/San Isabel National Forest. Today the crew was assigned to the Tokewanna Fire near the Utah-Wyoming border. Recent MNICS crew mobilization has prompted media interest this week. See KBJR TV news and the Grand Rapids Herald Review newspaper article.
Robert LaPlant was recently hired as the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chippewa National Forest Fire Management Officer at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC). He started his wildland fire career as an administratively determined (AD) firefighter in 1987 with Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Blackfeet Agency and most recently in eastern Montana at the BIA-Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Billings, Montana. Robert has worked as a wildland firefighter, helitack crew member, dispatcher, hotshot, engine module supervisor, fire operations supervisor and at the regional administrative level.
He is very happy to be back with USFS and looks forward to maintaining strong working relationships with interagency partners and learning about northern Minnesota. His hobbies include hunting, fishing, reading, making new friends and searching for the perfect cup of coffee. Robert is stationed at MIFC in Grand Rapids and can be reached at 218/380-3607.
A Minnesota Incident Command System team was activated yesterday after straight-line winds of up to 100 miles per hour were reported across parts of northern Minnesota during the early morning of July 21, 2016. From Beltrami County in the northwest, to Duluth and east into Wisconsin, widespread damage occurred causing two fatalities and two serious injuries to campers in Quetico National Park, Canada.
A nine-member MNICS incident management (short) team, under Incident Commander Brian Pisarek, has focused on the safety and protection of life, structures and natural resources. The team was also charged with assessing resources, equipment and overhead for loss, response and recovery activities. The team gathered intelligence, developed multi-agency maps, monitored information and collaborated with MNICS agencies and local emergency response partners.
The storm caused major damage especially in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) near Ely, Duluth, Cloquet, Hill City and Itasca State Park. As of this morning, nearly 70,000 people were affected by power outages across northern Minnesota.
An initial USFS attack (IA) Type 3 IMT is managing the response in the BWCAW, as reported by the Superior National Forest. Yesterday, aircraft searched for distressed campers and assessed the scope of damage. The Chippewa National Forest reported downed trees and debris, and some damage at Norway Beach, but campgrounds remained open.
Today, seven aircraft were available for response and patrol near Ely including four helicopters from Minnesota DNR Forestry, DNR Enforcement, the Minnesota State Patrol and a Life Link helicopter from Hibbing. Also, a USFS Beaver, a DNR Enforcement plane on floats and a DNR Air Attack were available in Ely to provide air support.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel and Conservation Corps Minnesota (CCM) crews worked in Itasca State Park to clear roads and campgrounds. Several state structures have sustained damage from fallen trees. To assist, fallers moved to areas of need. Fallers (sawyers) are trained and qualified to fell trees using chain saws.
Significant road clearing has occurred on state and federal forests, parks and trails with local and area resources and personnel. The Minnesota Bureau of Indian Affairs reported minimal damage here but extensive wind damage and flooding in Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had power outages yesterday at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge but service is back on today. MNICS partner agency, the National Park Service at Voyageur’s National Park, reported no damage.
City and county emergency operation centers across the northland responded to calls for assistance and established cooling shelters during the intense heat. Minnesota Homeland Security & Emergency Management is assisting counties with the emergency assessment process and emergency declarations were issued for Blue Earth and Nicollet counties. St. Louis, Beltrami and Clearwater counties are assessing their emergency status.
Photos by Adam Cook, USFS
On July 12, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center’s (MIFC) crew #2 was assigned to the Hayden Pass Fire in Salida, Colorado, which is now 55 percent contained at 16,489 acres burned. Yesterday the crew was demobilized and assigned to the 1,800-acre Little Den Fire, 39 miles west of Austin, Nevada. Before leaving Colorado, the crew visited Storm King Mountain near Glenwood where 14 firefighters died in 1994 in the South Canyon fire; a scenario that shaped future wildland firefighting policy and standard equipment.
Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) mobilizes its fourth crew of the summer
Another crew (MIFC crew #3) is on its way to the 15,200-acre Hayden Pass Fire in the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado. The 20-member crew, led by Nick Abel and Jeremy Pace, will join MIFC crew #2 and nearly 600 personnel to suppress the fire near Salida that grew by 1,700 acres since yesterday.