CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After a couple weeks out west fighting forest fires, fifteen West Virginia foresters and firefighters have arrived back home to take a much needed rest.
“We’re guaranteed a couple days off whenever we do get back before we do have to go back to our regular jobs,” said Rodger Ozburn with the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
Ozburn recently returned from helping fighting a wildfire near Hailey, Idaho. Another group of 10 foresters returned to the Mountain State last week after serving for two weeks in Montana. They were battling the Miner Paradise Complex blaze in the Gallatin National Forest. Five firefighters also made the trip.
“A typical day will be anywhere from 14 to 16 hours on a shift out there,” said Ozburn. “I was averaging probably 15 hours a day.”
While out there, they were assigned to several different positions. Some fought the fires on the frontlines, others were public information officers and some had coordinating jobs like Ozburn, who served as a deck coordinator.
“I was responsible for making sure all safety requirements were met as helicopters took off and landed,” he said. “Making sure that all personnel were wearing the appropriate protective equipment.”
The 15-member crew arrived back home to their families in the Mountain State last week. Ozburn said the conditions out west have greatly improved since he first left.
“The National Preparedness Level has dropped to a III, down from a V, which it was while I was out there and that just means basically that there are less daily new occurrences of fire and that some of the big ones they are getting handles on them,” he said.
In addition to Montana, forest fires have plagued other states including Idaho and California. One of the largest is the Rim Fire in California which has burned nearly 371 square miles.
After a long two weeks, the team members got a little break before heading back to their regular jobs this week.