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Firefighters Assist With Western Fires
Updated September 26, 2013 6:46 AM
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firefighter digs trenches.jpg
Two National Park Service and a TNC firefighter dig line together on an Indiana crew on the Rim Fire this summer.

(UNDATED) - Indiana deployed 82 firefighters to work on western wildfires so far this year. These firefighters spent a total of 2,131 personnel days battling fires in one of the worse years on record.

"Currently, all our Indiana fire fighters are home," said Maggie Schuetter, director of the Indiana Interagency Coordination Center. "However, the western fire season isn't over and there is always the possibility that our firefighters will be called out again."

Schuetter said that it is fortunate that Indiana's crews are back before Indiana's fall fire season. "We can share resources nationally when they're needed, but then get our people and engines back so they are here when the leaves start falling." Crews are also available for any prescribed burning that might be planned by the different agencies."

Crews and resources from Indiana were sent to 11 states (AK, AZ, CA, GA, MO, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, and WI). Of the 82 people, some were sent as crews, and some in positions helping with a variety of tasks such as logistics, safety, and operations officers.

"Indiana firefighters worked on 47 different wildfire incidents this year; building fire lines, cutting hazard trees, and protecting homes," Schuetter said. "They also managed fire camps, dispatched personnel and equipment, made maps and planned the next day's work, and kept firefighters safe on the line and in camp."

Firefighters come from across the state and represent the Hoosier National Forest (USDA Forest Service), Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Lincoln Boyhood National Monument (National Park Service), Big Oaks (US Fish and Wildlife Service), Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and The Nature Conservancy. Some are professional firefighters; many are foresters, wildlife biologists, recreation specialists, and other resource managers who have specialized fire training to do the many jobs required to support fire suppression efforts.

Each person who goes on assignment is expected to be out for at least 14 working days. They all have completed a rigorous course of training specific to the job they will be doing. They have also spent time in on-the-job training before getting certified in their individual positions.

Schuetter explains Indiana firefighters are ordered through a national system that starts with a need identified by an Incident Management Team. Personnel and equipment are ordered through the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID. Those orders are filled by the closest available resources from a variety of state and federal agencies.

Indiana personnel who are trained firefighters could go on multiple assignments throughout the year.

Demand for Indiana firefighters usually slows once cooler temperatures arrive in the mountainous western states, normally sometime in late September or early October.

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