Thirteen members of the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew, acting as part of a larger 20-person interagency initial attack hand crew from the northeast region, mobilized Wednesday morning from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)’s Eastern District Headquarters in Marlborough to fight wildfires in Minnesota.
The crew represents the latest personnel/resources sent from Connecticut out west this wildfire season. So far this year, Connecticut has mobilized a total of 33 people to fight wildfires in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, and Oregon.
According to the National Interagency Coordination Center, as of today there are 66 uncontained large fires in several western states being managed under a full suppression strategy. Additionally, there are 32 fires being managed under a strategy other than full suppression. The fires encompass more than 1.7 million acres cumulatively, with 21,544 personnel deployed to combat them. Connecticut residents in recent days have experienced poor air quality as a result of smoke from some of these fires, with elevated levels of fine particles remaining in the lower atmosphere.
During the 16-18 day deployment, the crew that mobilized Wednesday from Connecticut will assist with initial attack, relief of other crews, and pre-positioning to get ahead of potential fires in Minnesota. They will be primarily working in the Superior National Forest. Connecticut has also sent a fire engine to the same area, and over 8 weeks provided four rotations of engine crews to lend assistance, as Minnesota continues to experience unprecedented drought, multiple wind events, and numerous fire starts. Ongoing wildfires in Canada are now within one mile of the Minnesota border. Previously deployed crews in Minnesota have dealt with hot, dry conditions while providing initial attack capabilities, patrolling high fire risk areas, doing storm clean up, and conducting fuel reduction work in the National Forest.Other national deployments saw a DEEP staff member work for two weeks as a helicopter crew member battling fires in 120-degree heat in Arizona, and another coordinating aviation operations on fires in Montana. Connecticut crew members have also assisted in financial roles as well as providing operational leadership on incidents.
DEEP’s Forestry Division coordinates the Connecticut Interstate Fire Crew (CIFC), for which it maintains a roster of agency staff members and private individuals, many associated with local fire departments, who have been certified to fight forest or wildfires. Crew members must complete a rigorous training program and participate in an annual physical work capacity test and refresher training.
Connecticut maintains this firefighting capability to participate in a reciprocal aid program operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Under this program, trained personnel from other parts of the nation are available to assist Connecticut in the event of a fire emergency or other natural disaster in return for the support of Connecticut personnel when needed. All state agency expenses directly associated with these deployments are 100% reimbursed to the State by the U.S. Forest Service.
For more information about the CIFC, go here.