August Tests Million Acre Refuge
November 10, 2010
“In slow seasons it can be difficult to guard the home front – that’s the tough part of firefighting,” said Fire Management Officer Mike Granger at the Charles M. Russell (CMR) National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana.
Granger said he depends upon interagency support for managing prescribed fires and wildfires at CMR. With a staff of 12, most employees have collateral duties. Keeping firefighters prepared to fight wildfire is a day-to-day job at the refuge, especially during wet or inactive seasons.
“For example, I couldn’t fill requests to send my employees to the Oil Spill Cleanup last summer. I just can’t let firefighters go and leave my home territory unprotected,” he said.
Granger’s foresight paid off in August, when lightning storms left rashes of fire on the 1.1 million acre refuge in eastern Montana. Most were quickly contained, until August 21, when four starts quickly grew into the 27,898-acre Raven Rat Patch Fire. After days of chasing flames and conducting burn operations, 200 firefighters prevailed, controlling the fire with no major injuries or damage to structures.
“Firefighters were able to catch and hold the fire within reasonable boundaries, allowing the fire to continue to burn through the proposed wilderness and to the Missouri River,” Granger explained. “Their efforts saved the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money.”
In 2009, nine wildfires burned just 38 acres at CMR. Staying focused in a season like that requires energy and creativity. “We do a lot of project work, from building fences to counting ferrets. The key is keeping busy.”
"A Successful Burning Operation Conducted on the Raven Rat Patch Fire, August, 2010."
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