Crew includes members from Camden, Clayton, Dover, Harbeson, Magnolia, Millsboro, Newark, New Castle, Rehoboth Beach, Smyrna, Townsend and Maryland
Delaware’s wildland fire crew returned to the First State this morning after successfully battling wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming over the past two weeks.
The team includes members from Camden, Clayton, Dover, Harbeson, Magnolia, Millsboro, Newark, New Castle, Rehoboth Beach, Smyrna, Townsend and Maryland.
The team flew from Denver to Philadelphia on Thursday and then boarded a charter bus early this morning for the return to Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, according to John Petersen, Delaware Forest Service community relations officer.
The Delaware Forest Service dispatched the firefighters to Colorado on July 25. 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 Aug. 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 trenches to block the spread of the fire, patrolled fire lines, and protected structures including homes. As of Aug. 10, the fire was at 85 percent containment.
Delaware has been dispatching a crew to fight wildfires almost every year since 1998. Last year, Delaware sent a team to battle the 36,500-acre Fork Complex Fire in northern California.
The crew is a mix of public agency employees, recruits from volunteer fire companies, and private citizens with a interest in fighting wildfires, Petersen said.
This year, along with private citizens, four of the firefighters work with the Delaware Forest Service, two are from DNREC's Division of State Parks, one is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Prime Hook Wildlife Area, and one works for New Castle County. Six crew members are "rookies," marking their first assignment on a wildfire crew.
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, crew must complete a rigorous work-capacity test by carrying 45-pounds over a three-mile course in less than 45 minutes, said Petersen.
Although compensated by federal funds, all members volunteer for what could become a perilous mission, he said.