The Maine Forest Service has sent a 20-member crew to Montana, where the group will spend two weeks helping to contain wildfires that have been raging there for five days.
Led by Ranger Mike Daigle of Fort Kent and Ranger Brian Getchell of Machias, the crew flew to Billings, Montana, early Wednesday morning and are expected to be there for two weeks, Regional Forest Ranger Jeff Currier said Thursday afternoon.
The rest of the crew consists of 18 trained wildland firefighters who work on a call-when-needed basis. “Plus all the expenses are paid for by the requesting agency,” he said, which in this case was the U.S. Forest Service.
In addition to rugged terrain, firefighters are dealing with brutal heat. The temperature in Billings on Thursday afternoon was 98 degrees.
“They’re going to be working on these fires in Montana. It’s a pretty robust fire season for the west already and it’s a little earlier than normal,” Currier said. “We typically send resources out of state in August and September and even into October.”
The wildfires in Montana, California and western Canada are the result of record-breaking heat and extremely dry conditions, according to several news agencies in the area, including the Flathead Beacon.
Currier said that Maine sends firefighters to other states and sometimes Canada when it has the manpower to do so.
“When we can, we like to help out, like the other states and the federal government because they would help us if we had a need here,” he said, adding that the Maine Forest Service sent one of its fire engines and a crew down to Georgia for about a month.
“The great thing about this program is aside from being able to help another area out is that our people get excellent training and experience when they are on these fires,” Currier said.
For updates about the wildfires Mainers are helping to contain and extinguish, visit inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5355/. Currier said that photos and updates will be posted on the Maine Forest Service’s Facebook page.