Just in from the MNICS Dispatch Working Team
Get answers to single resource assignment questions. The “Mobilization Issues & Commonly Asked Questions” covers topics arising from the 2016 wildfire season. Check it out. Stay tuned for the 2017 MOB Guide, Wildfire Academy brochure and Minnesota Fire Suppression Field Pocket Guide. Also, the 2017 EACC MOB Guide is now available.
Indication of spring fire weather ahead?
With temperatures up nearly 20 degrees above average over the weekend, and due to a historic 18-month warm streak in Minnesota, time will tell if an early spring fire season is ahead.
A front this evening drove strong winds into western and southern Minnesota, which will continue through Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Warm temperatures and high winds dry fuels and reduce relative humidity (RH) making it easier to burn. Probability for ignition is 60 percent with rates of spread at 150 chains per hour, should fire ignite in high winds.
Earlier today, the National Weather Service-Sioux Falls issued a Red Flag Warning for parts of South Dakota, Nebraska and northwest Iowa. Wind and fire danger advisories are likely to continue there tomorrow.
This front triggered conditions causing the first 2017 tornado watch in the state (earliest ever) until 10 p.m. today, March 6th. Check the Chanhassen-NWS website tomorrow for wind advisories (up to 60 m.p.h. gusts) in some parts of the state with increased fire potential (Mike Locke, DNR contributor).
Applications due March 15
Interested in being on a MNICS Type-2 initial attack crew? Here’s your chance.
2017 Wildfire on Ice raises $18K
The sixth annual Wildfire on Ice (WOI) successfully raised nearly $18,000 this year at the Jan.14 tournament. Hockey players from as far away as Alaska and Missouri competed among four teams at the Walker Area Community Center. In a 9-4 upset, the Department of Interior hooked the championship beating the Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) team that had the title for three years. Proceeds from raffle tickets, swag sales, silent auction bids and donations will benefit the Walker Area Community Center, youth hockey and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (WFF).
Cody was a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) wildland firefighter who assisted on Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) fire crews. We respect, appreciate and thank Cody for his dedication and service. Details are here.
New series aims to educate about the role of wildland firefighters and how they serve the public
The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) and the Northeast Interagency Support Cache is closed Monday, Dec. 26, 2016 and Monday, Jan. 2, 2017. Otherwise, business hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Weekends call 218/327-4558 to leave a message or reach the duty officer in an emergency.
Nearly 125 participants attended the 2016 MNICS annual meeting in Duluth, Dec. 6-8, 2016. Featured speakers included Dr. Harvey Goldstein, Kari Greer and Dan Smith. Working teams gathered to choose chairpersons, work on projects and set priorities for 2017. You can view photos from the annual meeting on the MNICS Facebook page. Award recipients are listed below:
MNICS is holding its annual meeting this week in Duluth. About 100 interagency representatives are here for Task Force and Board of Director meetings, working team meetings, and presentations. Keynote speakers are Dan Smith, fire director for the National Association of State Foresters, Kari Greer, wildfire photographer and Dr. Harvey Goldstein, critical incident stress management expert. You can read the 2016 annual report here or download it:
The MNICS team took a break to see the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree that stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee on Nov. 23. Harvested from the Payette National Forest, the 80-foot, 16,500-pound, 84-year-old Engelmann Spruce is making its 4,000-mile journey from McCall, Idaho for a lighting ceremony on Dec. 6 in Washington, DC. It will be decorated with more than 6,000 ornaments made by kids in Idaho.
Meanwhile, 70 fires are burning in eastern Tennessee among 164 fires in the southeast, which remains at planning level 5. The region is having abnormally dry to exceptionally high drought conditions. One hundred firefighters were treated to a Thanksgiving Day meal yesterday as crews continue to arrive at the Knoxville Mobilization Center being coordinated by Brian Pisarek and the MNICS team.
Inside the Knoxville MOB center
As heavy fire behavior continues, Wildfire Today reports the Southern Area Coordination Center (SACC) is at planning level 5 with 73 active fires, more than 109,500 acres burned and 3,492 personnel. A total of 242 engines, 19 helicopters and 103 hand crews are also assigned. Earlier this month Kentucky was under a state of emergency with 38 active fires. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency today with 19 fires and 40,000 acres burned since Oct. 23.
Nearly 80 MNICS personnel are now in eight states: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Resources may also soon be needed in Tennessee. Among those, MIFC fire behavior analyst B.J. Glesener is at SACC headquarters in Atlanta producing the daily Southern Fire Environment Outlook showing high fire potential in Georgia, Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky. The region is still in need of dispatchers and crew replacements, so please make your availability known to your duty officers.
The University of Minnesota Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative is offering a day-long symposium discussing fire-dependent forest systems on Dec. 1, Timberlake Lodge, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Many of Minnesota’s most productive forest systems are fire-dependent including jack pine, red pine, and oak-dominated systems. Panel presentations from regional researchers, forest and fire managers will focus on the role of fire including the potential for increased use of prescribed burning. See the agenda and register now.
Also, on Dec. 13 from noon to 1 p.m. you can learn about Minnesota forest history and how changing forest conditions are impacting the timber supply, wildlife habitat and human use. Cost is $20 and you can register here.
Darren Neuman is the new Minnesota DNR wildfire aviation supervisor. He replaces Bill Schuster and comes to the Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC) with 15 years of forestry, fire and helicopter operations experience.
“I’m excited to work with a top-notch team and to lead a program with proven success,” said Neuman, a University of Minnesota forest resources management graduate. “We will make some exciting changes and continue our valued MNICS and GLFFC partnerships along with aviation programs across the U.S. and Canada.”
Neuman’s forestry career progression began in 2001 at the DNR Grygla office. He moved to Hill City in 2006, then to Grand Rapids in 2007 for work in the Deer River forestry area. He became the Deer River assistant area forester in 2015. Darren and wife, Tiffany, live and work in Grand Rapids. They have a pair of five-year-olds, Adele and Finn.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reduced the national preparedness level to one on Sept. 30 and Minnesota is at planning level two. Heavy precipitation over the summer has reduced the threat of wildfire throughout most the state. So far this year, Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) agencies report a total of 1,330 fires for 11,825 acres burned.
As of Oct. 11, MNICS agencies conducted 488 prescribed burns (Rx) throughout the state for 103,121 acres burned. Prescribed fire in a controlled setting reduces fuel so a wildfire has less chance of occurring. It can improve wildlife habitat and enhance native plant growth.
Birds, waterfowl, prairie chickens, moose, grouse and cranes benefit from new vegetation growth. To a large extent, prescribed burning helps natural generation of tree stands. Jack Pine, and a few other Minnesota tree species, depend on fire to regenerate.
When it’s not peak fire season, wildland and forest firefighters improve timber stands by pruning White Pine trees or bud-capping them. They also maintain forest roads, muck culverts, remove brush and deadfall. When not fighting wildfires, they also repair or replace signage, maintain buildings and grounds, fix equipment at field stations, inventory timber stands and help with other field chores.
Last month, Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact (GLFFC) members had their annual meeting in Brainerd. Wildfire aviators and fire specialists from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario and Manitoba meet each year to share operational resources that leverage costs. Members exchanged ideas within their committees: operations, prevention, training, air operations, law enforcement and financial management.
To build cohesion, states and provinces compete in the GLFFC Cup Competition, a series of games and challenges including a scavenger hunt and team exercise of building an egg drop contraption. This year Ontario took the competition from Michigan members who won it last year.
During non-peak fire season, wildland firefighters train extensively to keep up their skills and red card qualifications as required by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) and Federal Emergency Management (FEMA).
Earlier this month, multi-state participants attended a “From Followership to Leadership” (L-280) course at Itasca Community College. Lead cadre instructors Pete Leschak and Dan Carroll facilitated the classroom discussion focusing on central leadership ideas to build a common purpose, team success and how to develop a professional sense of community.
An interagency team consisting of Angela Bealka, Jacob Beauregard, Cory Berg, Kirk Johnson, Chris Kramer, Tom Lynch, Pat Mulligan, Dustin Nelson, Dan Oberg and Harlow Thompson coordinated the field leadership assessment course (FLAC). Among other scenarios, crews dealt with simulations involving an injured and impaired driver, search and rescue operation, mutiny among crew members and how to safely remove hidden weapons from a vehicle.
“You have to ask yourself why would anyone want to follow me?” Leschak said. In terms of leadership qualities “you must want to do it and be able to lead by example.”
Learn more about upcoming wildfire training. It’s a good idea to check your qualifications after each fire season. If you were assigned to Minnesota DNR fires, you can email your fire experience to firstname.lastname@example.org so the information is updated on your record.
Apply by Dec. 31, 2016 if you want a spot on one of three Minnesota Incident Command System (MNICS) teams. This includes casuals, trainees, alternates and Command/General staff. You must apply regardless of your current status to be considered for 2017 team selection. Questions? Contact Tasha Woodwick, 218/322-2743.
The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center (MIFC), 402 SE 11th Street, Grand Rapids, Minnesota will begin heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacement on Oct. 19, 2016. The three-phase project will start with second floor construction. The Cache remains open for business. Some staff members will relocate to the MIFC training room and others will temporarily be off site at other locations:
- U.S. Forest Service staff, including the initial attack dispatch office, will move to the USDA Northern Research Station at Itasca Community College
- MIFC aviation desk staffers will split their time between the Hibbing Tanker Base and MIFC
First floor construction is expected to start by late December. MIFC office hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) and designated phone numbers remain the same, along with 24/7 duty officer coverage. Call before you visit and take caution in the MIFC parking lot while construction is underway. Contact Blake Freking or Bekah Luedtke if you have questions.
The University of Minnesota Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative will host a “Fire in Minnesota Forests” symposium on Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Timberlake Lodge in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Registration is $75 for members and $140 for non-members. Questions? Contact 218/726-6403.
Description: Many of Minnesota’s most productive forest systems are fire-dependent. With a focus on fire, this day-long symposium will go over the ecology, management and the potential for increased use of prescribed burning. Speakers include regional researchers, forest and fire managers. There will be a panel discussion about the role of fire in managing jack pine, red pine, and oak-dominated systems.
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.