Mississippi wildland firefighters deploy to California

(Noah Berger | AP)
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) has deployed a 20-person crew of wildland firefighters to assist state and federal partners with wildfire suppression efforts in California. The crew names will be released upon their safe return to Mississippi in approximately two weeks.

The crew of MFC wildland firefighters will be assisting on the Salt Fire in the Shasta Trinity National Forest in northern California. The fire is currently estimated at 2,800 acres.

“We appreciate our employees volunteering to be part of these efforts to help our state and federal partners in California,” said Russell Bozeman, MFC state forester. “Fighting the destructive power of wildfire means our wildland firefighters are working long hours in extreme conditions protecting people’s lives, homes and forestland.”

The members of this 20-person team are trained in wildland firefighting tactics and work together to help contain wildfires by constructing a fireline with hand tools. A fireline is a strip of land cleared of flammable vegetation down to the mineral soil, creating a perimeter clear of fuel around the wildfire.

Jason Scott, Communications Director Mississippi Forestry Commission, said: ”It’s a lot more labor intensive, just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, our crews here in Mississippi, they undergo training for this type of deployment and so they are ready to assist when they’re called upon.”

Due to the mountainous terrain and accessibility issues associated with using heavy equipment to create firelines in many areas out West, hand tool crews are frequently utilized on-the-ground to battle wildfires.

While hand tool crews are still used in some parts of the state due to rough or inaccessible terrain, bulldozers and tractor-plow units are the primary tools used by wildland firefighters to contain wildfires in Mississippi.

“In addition to assisting our state and federal partners, our crew members will gain valuable experience that will make them more efficient and effective wildland firefighters when they return home,” Bozeman said. “We are proud of our employees’ dedication and service and look forward to their safe return to Mississippi.”

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