Local 2948 Members Assist in Fighting Western Wild Fires

Last month, as wild fires raged across the Western United States, burning millions of acres from California to the Dakotas, a crew of twenty specially trained Massachusetts public employees set out from Hopkinton for a four-day cross-country drive loaded with gear, equipment, transportation, and expertise to provide assistance in fighting the fires affecting the region. The crew included Massachusetts’ Department of Conservation and Recreation and Division of Fisheries and Wildlife employees, most of whom are AFSCME Local 2948 members, as well as municipal firefighters trained to fight wildfires in adverse conditions.

The team from Massachusetts joined hundreds of crews from across the country to battle several of the nearly 100 active, uncontained wildfires currently burning over 2.8 million acres of land in the Western United States.

When they departed Hopkinton on August 14th, the Massachusetts Wildfire Crew (MAS#1) did now know where exactly they would be headed, but knew that they would be sent to an area in great need. The crew was initially deployed to assist with the 170,000 acre Richard Spring Fire in eastern Montana. Critical fire weather with hot, dry, and windy conditions made the fire a severe threat to the communities, homes, buildings, and infrastructure in the area.

The crew, which is also referred to as a “Type 2 initial attack hand crew,” engaged in direct fire suppression, working on the fire line– building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires, and protecting structures. 

After the Richard Spring Fire was almost fully contained within days of the MAS#1 crew arriving on the scene, the Massachusetts team was reassigned to the Pine Grove Fire which threatened several small Montana communities.

On August 27th, the MAS#1 team was reassigned to their third incident and final stop on their 14-day deployment at the Trestle Creek Fire burning in the Idaho Panhandle. This complex consisted of 6 lightning caused fires in rugged terrain at 25% containment. MAS#1 Crew Boss and Local 2948 member, Roy Liard, reports “there is plenty of work to do here to hold this fire in place.”

MAS#1 was assigned to strengthen containment fire lines along the fire perimeter to prevent any fire spread during dry and windy conditions. MAS#1 was working in difficult terrain that is rugged, steep slopes, and full of combustible timber fuels. The crew was assigned to camp at a spike camp near Helispot 5 one of several remote “spike camps” established to minimize daily travel time to the assignments and keep crews separated for COVID mitigation.

“Local 2948-DCR Firefighters train and work hard here in Massachusetts to protect our communities and environment every day, so when the call to assist other states is received, particularly the drought ravaged north western US, Local 2948- DCR Firefighters have always answered the call with highly trained, professional wildland firefighters,” said Mike Marquardt DCR District Forest Fire Warden and Local 2948 Executive Board member.  

Partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission, DCR’s Bureau of Forest Fire Control has been sending crews since 1985 to fight fires in areas of the Western and Rocky Mountain States, Alaska, Florida, Virginia, and Quebec, Canada. All team members are federally certified for the work, having passed a 40-hour federal wildland firefighting class and physical fitness test. Through the mutual aid agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, the requesting state or province pays all expenses of the out-of-state crews, including salary, transportation, lodging, and food. 

Throughout the years, dozens of Local 2948 DCR Firefighters have answered the call to assist their fellow citizens in need by fighting fires across the United States and Canada. While all MAS#1 team members returned home safely on September 4th, sadly that has not always been the case. In 2003, Local 2948 firefighter, Wayne Mickle, paid the ultimate price when he passed away from a heart attack while battling the Montana Boles Meadow fire.

Read more about Local 2948 Firefighter Wayne Mickle HERE!

The Local 2948 members of MAS#1 include: Roy J. Liard Jr.; Benjamin Jennell; George L Kleczka; Brian Mayer; Brian Johnson; Aaron Best; Conor Clancy; Tyler Desautels; Brian Everett; Connor Fleming; Travis Gross; Jacob O’Donnell; Andrew Theve; Derick Valovcin; and Cody Smeaton