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.