This month, more than a dozen Iodans are helping to fight wildfires in three other states as part of a national partnership program.
According to Ryan Schlater, an Iowa DNR fire expert, six Iowa are moving in groups from three to west Texas, where Dempsi Fire has burned thousands of acres of forest. Iowa sailors with two others are battling wildfires in Colorado.
“We have six people in Alaska with 20 people, joined by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Mark Twain National Forest,” and they live there for 21 days.
If a wildfire breaks out in Iowa this week, these firefighters say there is no reason to worry that our territory is short-lived. “Most of them are vacation county board employees. We have very few Iowa DNR people who are really going, ”says Schlater. “Basically, we serve any Iowa citizen who is interested and can walk in the wild. We get them trained. We put them in a fitness test, and they will then qualify to go to the National Fire.
The “Common Aid” firefighting program has been sending Iowa wildfires to national events since 2006, but Schleider said it is rare to send workers to other states.
“We are very blessed here in Iowa,” he said.
“We have about 900 volunteer firefighting units in the region. And if you think about it, we have miles in most places, some places may be more, but the road is perfectly fireproof. We also have good access to most of our lands where wildfires start.
Ioans in firefighting teams spend at least 40 hours training for the first time abroad, after which they are paired with more experienced individuals.
“Of course there is a risk of any fire,” Schlater said, “but we have a lot of security measures in place to protect everyone and bring them home.”
Schleter said all the gaps have been filled for this year’s firefighting program but are registering volunteers for next year.
Learn more here www.iowadnr.gov/Conservation/Forestry/Fire-Management