Vermont Foresters Fight in Western Fires

06/25/02 12:00AM



(Host) The U.S. Forest Service has called up a crew of firefighters from Vermont, New York and New Hampshire to fight the big western wildfires. A crew of 20 left from Manchester, New Hampshire, at 4:00 a.m. Sunday and were assigned to a fire upon arriving in Utah Monday night.

The volunteer crew is one of many called in from across the country to assist with more than 20 large wild fires burning in western states. So far this fire season, nearly 2 million acres have burned or continue to burn.

Tammy Malone is the Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Green Mountain National Forest. She says that when several geographical areas have major fires, forest service workers from across the country are called in to assist:

(Malone) "That's when we go to Preparedness Level 5. As managers, that's when we put fire as the ultimate priority. We relieve people of their other duties and ask them if they're trained and available to please help in the situation."

(Host) Malone says that because the fire danger is low here, it's easier for staff from the Green Mountain National Forest to leave their duties to help in other states.

The crew that left on Sunday is not the first to go this season. Bradley Bernardy, an Aviation and Fire Management Officer based in Rutland, recently returned from a fire in Minnesota. Bernardy isn't deterred by the dangerous work.

(Bernardy) "Most of us like the travel aspect of it. The money's helpful. And going out as a crew can be a really neat time for people. I don't see it as real dangerous. We're always managing risk, whether we're working at home or crossing the street or whatever. And if you look at the training aspect, just like a police officer or any emergency person, we all take calculated risk."

(Host) Foresters must complete extensive coursework in fire behavior, and pass fitness and work capacity tests before they are eligible to volunteer for duty. Forest officials expect that another volunteer crew from Vermont may be called up soon.

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