Louisiana Stewardship

Fighting Fires Out West in 2013

Alex surveys the situation in Washington.

The summer of 2013 was an epic year for the wildland firefighting community.  At one point, many of the United States Forest Service firefighters were fighting large fires in parts of California when a number of lightning storms rolled across California, Oregon and Washington.  The Nature Conservancy sent qualified staff members out west to help those crews catch the fires that were starting back in their home units. Because The Nature Conservancy uses federal standards for all of our prescribed fires, our staff needs to have wildlife suppression qualifications.  Since there are not a lot of wildfires in Louisiana, it makes sense for our staff to travel out west for those experiences and training. 

The following is the personal account of Alex Entrup, one of Louisiana’s stewardship team members: 

I was working in California at Plumas National Forest and Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and in Washington at Wenatchee and Snoqualmie National Forests.  None of the fires were big enough to be large, named incidents, but I was working out of the same basecamp as the Conrad Lake fire.  There were about 250-300 people at basecamp for the Conrad Lake fire, but we eventually moved to another base camp where there were about 30 out of town firefighters staying.  There were usually about 60 or so firefighters reporting to our station each morning. Some were on various stages of suppression for small fires and the rest were on patrol.

As engine captain, I am the officer in charge of the fire engine. I have two engineers to supervise.  I report to a division supervisor or strike team leader.  I am responsible for keeping my crew safe, accomplishing all objectives, and for taking care of all the administrative needs for the contracting agency. It is a lot of keeping team cohesion and sanity while three people share a cab 14 hours a day, for 14 consecutive days. 

The thing I like about wildlife fire is that it’s a dramatic restoration.  It is bringing a natural process back to the environment, and you can really feel like you accomplished something tangible at the end of the day.  It is somewhat ironic that we travel to put out fires after spending all spring setting fires, but that is part of the paradox of wildland fire.  There needs to be more fire both here and out west, but they need to be under control and when the conditions are right.

Hats off to the fire crews of TNC!