County firefighters heading to Minnesota to fight wildfires

The two will join other Midwest firefighters to battle the blaze at Cavity Lake.
Wednesday, August 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:18 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Two firefighters with the Boone County Fire Protection District will head to northern Minnesota on Thursday to join a team deploying from Rolla to fight the Cavity Lake wildfire.

Lt. Chris Roberts from the Harrisburg station and Tim Hartz from the Centralia station will join a team of other Midwest firefighters on the seventh crew from the Missouri-Iowa area.

The Cavity Lake wildfire encompasses about 32,000 acres in the Superior National Forest, about 45 miles northeast of Ely, Minn. The fire has been about 77 percent contained, partly because of rainfall, according to the National Interagency Fire Center Web site.

Four other firefighters from the Boone County district have left with teams to fight fires around the country this wildfire season, said Doug Westhoff, the district’s assistant chief of special operations.

Assistant Chief Greg Rush and Mike McCord from Station 3 in Hallsville are also fighting fires in Minnesota. Rush and McCord went to Ely on July 18 to battle the Turtle Lake fire. The 2,000-acre fire is burning about 15 miles east of Ely, according to the NIFC. Rush and McCord returned to their base camp in Ely on Tuesday after paddling 12 miles through the Boundary Waters, Westhoff said.

Jake Waller, a firefighter from Station 8, south of Columbia, has been fighting peat fires in northern Minnesota. Peat burns under the surface, Westhoff said.

“Twenty-five feet in front of them they might see a column of smoke pop out,” he said.

After a few days of working with the peat fires, Waller was moved to fight another wildland fire.

Capt. John Timmerman of Harrisburg was called to fight a wildland fire because of his qualifications, Westhoff said. Timmerman is trained in operating wildland fire engines and was flown out of Columbia to serve as an engine boss for a crew fighting the Owl fire at the Montana-Wyoming border. The Owl fire encompasses more than 5,000 acres but is about 93 percent contained, according to the NIFC Web site.

Westhoff said that although wildfires in Western states are often the largest fires in the country and receive the most media attention, agencies strive to exhaust closer resources first. Although Boone County firefighters have been sent to fight Western fires in past seasons, this season they have more often been sent to fight closer, smaller fires.

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