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Mich. DNR workers aid with outstate wildfires

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

As of Saturday, Alaska emergency officials reported more than 300 wildfires underway across the state. Last week, the Province of Manitoba reported 389 wildfires reported so far this year and the province has been plagued by smoke drifting over residential areas for much of the month.

These are areas in need of help, and Michigan is answering the call.

Department of Natural Resources workers have been dispatched to both areas to provide fire suppression assistance. Twelve are now working in Manitoba, while the other two are providing technical support in Alaska’s Tanana Area.

That area is currently battling fires covering more than 500,000 acres.

“Cooperative efforts between counties, states and countries are crucial during emergency situations,” stated Bill O’Neill, chief of DNR’s Forest Resources Division, in a press release. “The experience our highly-trained staff receives when they are on out-of-state assignments is an asset when they are fighting wildfires here at home.”

Michigan provides personnel and expertise when necessary as part of the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact. The mutual aid agreement includes Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Ontario.

On several occasions in recent years, Michigan has been in the receiving end of the assistance agreement. In 2007, an 18,000-acre fire at Sleeper Lake called for outside personnel, as did a 2012 Duck Lake fire that eventually covered 21,000 acres.

Michigan sees an average of 600 wildfires each year, and so far 2015 is seeing more fires than the previous year. According to the DNR Website, Michigan had seen 289 wildfires through July 13 of this year. For the same period in 2014, the state tallied 149 wildfires.

When state firefighters are sent to assist outside Michigan, the DNR is reimbursed for the use of personnel and equipment.

“This is truly a win-win situation,” O’Neill’s statement reads. “We provide the expertise of our qualified and experience staff when that are needed outside of Michigan and the favor is returned when we need a hand during large incidents.”

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