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).
On the ice, they play hockey. In the forest or field, they fight fire. The family-friendly event is well attended, drawing several hundred players and spectators from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HSEM), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), U.S. Fish & Wildfire Service (FWS) and the National Park Service (NPS). Each year they come together during the second weekend in January. Next year’s tourney is slated for Jan. 18th.
“Each year we raise more money. It’s a good effort from all of our volunteers,” said event organizer Mike Rice, a zone fire management officer at the Chippewa National Forest who skated for the MNICS team. “There is fun for the whole family – Smokey Bear skate, snowmobiling, ice fishing – they usually make a weekend out of it,” he said.
Highlights from the mid-winter classic included a visit from WFF representatives: Dina Pfeiffer, Boise Idaho; Sam Percy, Ochoco National Forest in Oregon; and Brendan Mullen, Helena National Forest in Montana. Seth Grimm (FWS) received the Most Valuable Player award. Greg Peterson (BIA) received the AARP award and Pat Wherley (DNR) was given the “Extra Effort” award in helping to organize the tourney and fostering interagency cohesion.
“The wildfire community is like a family,” said Rebekah Luedtke, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center Coordinator. “We look forward to this every year and know that the proceeds go to a good cause that help injured or fallen firefighters and their families.”
Area vendors who contributed to the event include: Teeter Ashphalt, Bemidji Lions Club, Garfield Lake Ice Racers, Walker American Legion, AeroSpray Aviation, Minnesota Forestry Employee Association, Walker Home Center and significant donations from private contributors.