BOSTON — The Department of Conservation and Recreation will send 20 firefighters to California to help battle the fires that have raged across that state since late June.
“We are extremely proud of the DCR and municipal firefighters who have been called upon to help our friends in the western states,” said DCR Commissioner Edward Lambert Jr. “These are extremely well-trained and dedicated firefighters whose skills are much needed, and whose help, we know, is enormously appreciated.”
The crew mobilized Saturday, July 14, at 3 a.m. at Erving State Forest before departing for Manchester airport a few hours later. They went to Humbolt, Calif., where they are helping contain the fire in Shasta National Forest.
Shasta National Forest was established in 1905 by a proclamation issued by President Theodore Roosevelt. The forest was combined with neighboring Trinity forest in 1954 and renamed Shasta-Trinity Forest, which extends 2.1 million acres across the central region of Northern California between the interior Coast Range on the west and the Cascade Range on the east. The highest point in the forest rises to 14,162 feet at the summit of Mount Shasta.
Massachusetts DCR Bureau of Forest Fire Control started sending crews to assist other states through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service in 1985, and since then have fought fire in the entire western and Rocky Mountain states, Alaska, Florida, Virginia and Quebec. The firefighters heading west are federally certified for the work, having passed a 40-hour federal wildland firefighting class and physical fitness test, as have all of DCR’s 34 full-time and 53 seasonal firefighters.
The DCR crew is called a Type 2 hand crew, and will engage in direct fire suppression.
Crew members will work on the fire line building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires and protecting structures. For the most part, the firefighters will sleep in tents on the ground in fire camps.
The Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact is a partnership among the six New England states, New York, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Quebec to work together to deploy fire assistance within the Compact’s members and beyond. The federal government will pay all expenses of the out-of-state crews, including salary, transportation, lodging and food.
The deployed team includes DCR firefighters as well as local firefighters from various communities.
The 10 DCR firefighters in California are: Shawn Bush (crew boss), of Oakham; Aaron Whiddon, of Plymouth; Tracey Bagdasarian, of West Boylston; Jesse Hanecak, of West Whately; Jacob Martinez, of Florence; Drew Morse, of Williamsburg; Benjamin Niemiera, of West Townsend; Millard Ring, of Rockport; Eric Rogers, of Holyoke; and Scott Turner, of Three Rivers.
The ten local firefighters joining the DCR crew are: Jeffrey Belanger, of Deerfield; Alex Belote, of Plymouth; John Branscombe, of North Brookfield; Michael Currie, of Greenfield; Harold Fletcher, of Westford; Bruice Forgea, of Windsor; Michael Grimley, of Townsend; Max LaCasse, of New Ashford; George Nolette IV, of North Brookfield; and Laurance Pease, of Sturbridge.