COLUMBUS, OH - Ohios first crew of the 2003 wildfire season returned home today after fighting fires on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Members of the 20-person crew include nine employees from the ODNR Division of Forestry and 11 volunteer and professional firefighters not affiliated with a state or federal agency.
State foresters and volunteer firefighters from across the state gained valuable experience from battling these intense fires, said John Dorka, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. Ohio firefighters will use lessons and techniques learned out West to help suppress the 900 to 1,000 fires Ohio experiences each spring and fall.
In New Mexico, the Ohio crew fought the Granite fire, located 13 miles northwest of Hillsboro, which has consumed 3,900 acres since it started on July 17. Local authorities say the fire is now 15 percent contained.
The Ohio crew worked out of a remote camp for two weeks performing fireline construction and burning fuel in the path of the fire. All supplies and food had to be flown into the crew by helicopter each day.
More than 1.8 million acres of forest and brush land have burned in the United States this year. The nations fire season normally peaks in August and the U.S. Forest Service and state foresters are predicting more blazes.
A second Ohio crew was dispatched to South Dakota on July 24 to fight a 1,200-acre wildfire at Black Hills National Forest in southwest South Dakota. They remain in the West.