Fire crews help in Montana

Tim Hudson |

Several Osage Nation firefighters are on scene fighting the widely publicized Montana wildfires.

“We have four firefighters in Montana, three on an engine and one as a fire investigator,” Osage Nation Fire Program Director/Fire Management Officer Ross Walker said.

“They left on Sunday and had one day travel, so yesterday was their first working day. They will stay there for 14 days.”

The wildfires have swept across thousands of acres in Montana, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California and Utah and an estimated 24,000 firefighters have been battling upwards of 130 fires, some burning for months.

According to reports from the LA Times, eight firefighters have died as more than 500 homes destroyed in the fires.

Walker said that the Osage Nation crews are there by request and it’s the second time they have sent personnel to the Montana fires.

“We will never self-deploy, so it was by request” he said.

“The first person we sent was a fire investigator and with the time he spent there we will have had roughly 45 days total fighting these fires, and it’s the same with the engine crew.

According to information from the Osage Nation, its Wildland Fire Management Department is “responsible for approximately 200,000 acres of trust/restricted lands scattered in a checkerboard formation lying inside 1,470,559 acres that make up Osage County/Osage Nation Reservation.”

“The vast majority of Osage County consists of wide open grass lands,” according to the website.

“These light flashy fuels (grass lands) combined with high variable winds can subject firefighters to extremely rapid changes in fire behavior during the fire season. Within this open range is an abundance of hardwood timber and large areas of tall grass prairie that can easily hamper wildland fire control/suppression efforts for an initial attack engine.”

Walker said there are some differences with the Montana fires.

“Our primary fuels here are grass but the difference between here and Montana is the terrain. The timber there is thicker and therefore the fires last for a longer duration,” he said. “What we do with engines here they have to do with hand crews.”

He added the Montana crews have been good to assist with Oklahoma fires in recent times.

“Montana is experiencing a historical year. It’s not only one fire they are experiencing fires throughout the whole state so their firefighting resources are spread thin” he said.

“So that’s why crews are responding on a national level. They do come to Oklahoma to assist when they are not experiencing their own fires.”