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.
Straight line winds registering 60-70 MPH referred to as a “Bow Echo” entered Southwest Itasca County at approximately 5:30 PM, July 5, 2016.
Wide spread power outages occurred in the City of Deer River and intermittently throughout Itasca County.
The community of Ball Club suffered storm damage and local residents responding had mostly completed cleanup activities by night fall July 6th.
A public meeting was held at the Deer River High School Wednesday evening, July 6th.
Salvation Army and the Red Cross provided food and water at the Deer River High School.
Services at the Deer River School were terminated at 8PM on Thursday, July 7th.
Thursday – Saw crews and FireWise removed debris from approximately 100 residences in the city of Deer River and 20 plus in the McCavity Lake/ Crooked Lake area.
Lake Country Power and Minnesota Power and Light have completed clearing debris from power lines.
Customers of all power companies are reminded that damage to power supply inside of residences and structures and to the mast is the responsibility of the homeowner. Final power connection cannot be completed by power companies until power repairs from the mast to and into the structure are completed.
- Type 3 MNICS Incident Management Team is assigned to assist the Itasca County Sheriff, City of Deer River and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.
- 20 person MNICS Interagency saw crew
- Itasca Fire Wise project crew
- Itasca Sheriff
- Minnesota DNR
- City of Deer River
- Itasca FireWise
- Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
- McCavity/Crooked Lake area – Two five person Chain saw crews will be assigned
- City of Deer River –One five person Chain saw crew and the FireWise crew will be assigned to Deer River city wide clean up.
- Saw crews will be tasked with storm damaged Vegetation removal within 120 feet around structures and within 20 feet of structure access drives.
Curbside. Storm vegetation pickup by FireWise was discontinued in the City of Deer River Thursday evening. Citizens may still bring tree and brush debris to the city brush disposal site. No building/construction demolition may be delivered to this site.
Recovery Assistance Available
Itasca FireWise Will pick up storm damaged vegetation that is piled near access points and that originated within 120 feet of structures and 20 feet of access driveways, in communities designated as a FireWise community.
Itasca County Landfill is accepting storm damaged vegetation free of charge from Itasca County residents.
Residents of Deer River are encouraged to call city hall for a list of certified tree removal specialists.
Individuals in need of financial assistance with electrical power reconnection should call 211 at 218-326-8565.
Residents with damage to homes and other out buildings should contact the Itasca County Assessor’s office (218-327-2861).
Itasca County Commissioners have approved a “Declaration of a State of Emergency” in Itasca County.
DNR open burning permits will be written from 7/7 through 7/11 that will allow daytime burning. A burning permit and the activation of that permit is still required.
Storm Relief fund raiser – Spaghetti dinner at the Grand Rapids Eagles on July 15th, 2016.
Plans for Friday
- Continued chainsaw work and debris removal.
- Local authorities will resume management of the incident at 6 PM tonight.
Points of Contact
- Ron Sanow , Incident Management Team PIO, 218-839-1504
- Marlyn Halvorson, Itasca County Emergency Manager, 218-910-0546
- Mark Box, Deer River City Administrator, 218-244-9509
Robby Johnson has accepted the Helicopter Operations Specialist (HOS) position at the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC). Previously, he was a NR-Fire Technician in Hill City and worked as the acting HOS at MIFC this past spring fire season. He replaces Matt Woodwick, who is the assistant wildfire aviation supervisor. Robby has 17 seasons of fire and aviation experience. Also, he was the statewide aerial ignition program coordinator and active with aerial seeding and herbicide projects.
“I am pleased to continue working with the DNR wildfire aviation team and look forward to new projects and initiatives. We are a tight team and I value my co-workers’ experience, expertise and skills,” said Johnson, who has a son (3-year-old Hudson) and a daughter (9-month-old Bristol) with wife, Breanne.
To honor those who have fallen in the line of duty, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) announced that from this year forward June 30 through July 6 will be designated as “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance.”
It was three years ago today that 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed on the Yarnell Fire. The NWCG has developed a “6 Minutes for Safety” calendar with topics to encourage firefighters to remember, reflect and discuss lessons learned from this tragedy and previous risk management scenarios. Today’s safety discussion is on human factors on the fireline. Read the tip sheet or watch the video.
The Karlstad Fire Department in northwestern Minnesota now has a significant upgrade to its fire fleet courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources Department of Defense Firefighter Property Program.