Delaware’s wildland fire crew returned to the First State after successfully battling wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming. On July 25, the Delaware Forest Service firefighters were deployed to Colorado as their first assignment was assisting Colorado’s Bureau of Land Management on the 492-acre Milk Fire near Craig, Colorado. Next, they were sent by the Rocky Mountain Geographic Area Coordination Center to the 1,287-acre Tokewanna Fire near Mountain View, Wyoming. Finally, on August 4, they were dispatched to the 12,276-acre Whit Fire, located east of Yellowstone National Park near Cody, Wyoming. On the Whit Fire, Delaware’s team worked with more than 600 personnel as they constructed hand line, patrolled fire lines and protected structures.
Delaware has dispatched a crew almost every year since 1998. Last year, Delaware sent a team to battle the 36,500-acre Fork Complex Fire in northern California. Firefighters are a mix of public agency employees, recruits from volunteer fire companies and private citizens with a keen interest in fighting wildfires. This year, four are from the Delaware Forest Service, two from DNREC Division of State Parks, one from U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Prime Hook Wildlife Area and one from New Castle County.
Michael Krumrine of Magnolia has been a part of the Delaware Forest Services Interagency Wildland Fire crew since 2007. For the past 11 years he has worked for Delaware State Parks as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Coordinator. He has been deployed to fight forest fires eight times out West including locations in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. Krumrine’s desire to help others in need has kept him active in the program each summer since he joined.
“You never know where or when you will be going until the last minute when we get an assignment. When our crew gets called it’s typically because things are bad out west and crews and resources are stretch thin,” said Krumrine. “I always used to watch the Hurricanes on the news and wish I could help out with the cleanup efforts. Though wildfires are a lot different, it’s still an opportunity to help people in need. It’s a chance to help save people’s houses and livelihood so that there is no need for cleanup and rebuilding.”
This year Delaware’s wildland fire crew spent a good deal of time constructing hand line or containment line. Digging and scraping a 24” line along the fires edge, the crew removed all the flammable material, and removed all the low hanging branches on the trees, exhausting any fuel that helps the fire advance or grow stronger. The crews also patrolled and “mopped up”, making sure that everything was completely out along the fires edge and around people’s houses.
Firefighters must prepare both mentally and physically for the annual fire season and achieve certification by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. In addition to annual training courses held in the Spring, crews must complete a rigorous work-capacity test by carrying 45-pounds over a three-mile course in less than 45 minutes. Although compensated by federal funds, all members volunteer for what could become a perilous mission.
“As most would assume it’s a hot, dirty, and exhausting job, though leaving your family in the middle of the summer, or the vacations, birthdays, and anniversaries missed are sometimes the most difficult parts of the job,” said Krumrine. “The part that makes it worth doing each year are the people you meet and how thankful they are. This year we went to both Colorado and Wyoming and the people were incredible.”
The Delaware Forest Service is seeking qualified and motivated candidates for its wildfire training classes at the Delaware State Fire School. Applicants should be at least 18 years of age, physically and mentally fit, motivated to learn and willing and able to travel for up to two weeks or more, usually during the summer months, for out-of-state fire assignments. Previous firefighting experience is not required. For more information individuals interested can contact Kyle Hoyd, DFS Wildland Fire Program, by phone at 302-698-4548 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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