- Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
Four members of the MassWildlife prescribed fire crew—Aaron Best, Jesse Caney, Chris Connors, and Ben Mazzei—were deployed with 16 other Massachusetts firefighters on August 15, 2018 to assist with wildfires burning across the northern Rocky Mountain region of the United States. The crew returned home safely to Massachusetts on Saturday, September 1. The fire crew was assigned to the Goldstone Fire on the border of Montana and Idaho, where the rugged, steep terrain and weather presented challenges in containing the fire. MassWildlife is happy for the safe return of those deployed and wishes success for those still battling fires across the western part of the United States. In the northern Rocky Mountain region of Montana and Idaho alone, roughly 76,000 acres are experiencing active fires. Nationally, nearly 19,000 personnel are combating fires that have affected over 2 million acres.
Four members of the MassWildlife prescribed fire crew—Aaron Best, Jesse Caney, Chris Connors, and Ben Mazzei—were deployed with 16 other Massachusetts firefighters on August 15, 2018 to assist with wildfires burning across the northern Rocky Mountain region of the United States. The Massachusetts crew, made up of 12 Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) firefighters, 4 MassWildlife firefighters, and 4 municipal firefighters, will provide their expertise and assistance to combat fires recently ignited within the region. The 20 firefighters will join crews from the White Mountain National Forest, National Park Service, and the mid-Atlantic states at a mobilization center in Manchester, New Hampshire before departing to the state of Montana.
“Massachusetts is the home of some of the most talented and well qualified firefighters in our country,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Massachusetts has a long, proud history of national and international cooperation in battling wildfires, and on behalf of the entire Commonwealth, our thoughts and prayers are with those who are impacted by these fires and for the safe travel and return of our firefighters.”
“We are extremely proud of our firefighters’ willingness and dedication to come to the aid of our fellow Americans in need,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Firefighters from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and municipalities have selflessly joined together to provide important services to those states in need, and I am confident they will put their extensive training to good use in battling these wildfires.”
On this assignment, the crews will be initially stationed at Northern Rockies Coordination Center in Great Falls, Montana for assignment to one of the 22 fires currently burning out of control in the area. 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.
"The training and experience our firefighters will gain assisting with these wildfires will help our prescribed fire program grow and improve," said MassWildlife Director Mark Tisa. "We thank everyone who will be serving on the Massachusetts Wildfire Crew and look forward to their safe return."
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, Canada. 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 with the U.S. Forest Service, the requesting state or province pays all expenses of the out-of-state crews, including salary, transportation, lodging, and food.
“We are incredibly proud of our state and municipal firefighters who have been called upon to assist our friends in the northern Rocky Mountain region of the United States,” said Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Leo Roy. “These are extremely well trained and dedicated firefighters whose skills are much needed, and whose help is enormously appreciated.”
“There are currently 107 active fires burning in the Western United States amounting to 1.6 million acres impacted,” said Dave Celino, Chief Fire Warden for the Department of Conservation and Recreation. “We have seen unprecedented destructive fire behavior in that area of the country due to extremely dry fuel conditions, continued higher than average temperatures, and very low humidity levels, and the experience of our firefighters will truly be a benefit as the containment of these fires is underway.”
The Massachusetts firefighter crew being deployed to Montana includes:
State Firefighters: Robert Armstrong from Conway; Thomas Benoit from Worcester; Aaron Best from Lakeville; Jesse Caney from Ayer; Conor Clancy from Merrimac; Christopher Connors from Bozrah, CT; Jonathan Hallinan from Ipswich; Benjamin Jennell from Newbury; Brian Johnson from Ashburnham; George Kleczka from Plainville; Roy Liard from Millville; Brian Mayer from West Groton; Benjamin Mazzei from Pelham; Joseph Nawrocki from New Salem; Keith Robbins from Westhampton; and Greg Whittier from Deerfield.
Municipal Firefighters: Jason Antosz of Hatfield; Jeffery Bleanger of Greenfield; James Hyatt of Windsor; and George Nolette of North Brookfield.