Massachusetts firefighters depart from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on Saturday morning to help fight wildfires in the Northwest. You can follow the firefighting efforts on Twitter here and use #chiwaukumcomplex.
BOSTON — Three Berkshire County men are in a crew of 20 wildland firefighters dispatched by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation on Saturday to help battle blazes in the Northwest.
Nearly 900,000 acres across Oregon and Washington have been ravaged by fire in the last two weeks. The crew is made up of 14 DCR state firefighters, including Jonathan LaCasse of Lanesborough, and six municipal firefighters, including Bruce Forgea of Windsor and Max LaCasse o New Ashford.
The LaCasses, cousins, and Forgea were also among the crew sent in 2013 to assist with containment of several lightning caused fires in and around Missoula, Mont.
The deployment is in response to a request DCR Commissioner Jack Murray received Thursday from the U.S. Forest Service and the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center in Bolton Hill, Maine. The 20 DCR firefighters met up with four other crews from New Hampshire, New York, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the White Mountain National Forest. They departed from Manchester Airport on Saturday morning.
On this assignment, the crews from all three states and two federal agencies were assigned to the Chiwaukum Complex, a complex of three fires totaling 12,320 acres located just outside of Leavenworth, Washington. The crew, which is also referred to as a "Type 2 initial attack hand crew," will engage in direct fire suppression, working on the fire line up to 14 days – building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires, and protecting structures.
"We are extremely proud of the DCR and municipal firefighters who have been called upon to help our friends and partners in Washington," said Murray in a statement. "These are extremely well-trained and dedicated firefighters whose skills are much needed, and whose help, we know, is enormously appreciated."
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.
All firefighters are federally certified for the work, having passed a 40-hour federal wildland firefighting class and physical fitness test. Through the mutual aid agreement of the compact, the requesting state or province pays all expenses of the out-of-state crews, including salary, transportation, lodging, and food.
Others on the crew are DCR firefighters Aaron Whiddon of Plymouth, Gregory Whitier of Deerfield, Robert Armstrong of Conway, William Ashton of Leominster, Jonathan Hallinan of Peabody, Jesse Hanecak of Whately, Benjamin Jennell of West Newbury, Roy Liard of Wakefield, David Luongo of Sandwich, Brian Mayer of Groton, Millard Ring of Rockport, Keith Robbins of Westhampton and Eric Rogers of Holyoke. Municipal firefighters are Jeffrey Belanger of Deerfield, John Branscombe of North Brookfield, Christel Kalweit of Sandwich and George Nolette of North Brookfield.
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