|From left, kneeling: Rob Krapfel, Amy Bieber, Beth LeMire, Zev Hunting. Sitting: Kurt Ingold, Cody Lechleitner, and Chad Burnett. Third row: Dave Day, Bill Oelig, Matt Brown, Trevor Johnson, Brandi Beierle, Gordon Wegley, Becky White. Standing at back: Jon Agner and Colin Milone.|
September 14, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Donna Love
Each year the Seeley Lake Ranger District on the Lolo National Forest puts together a firefighting team trained in wildlands firefighting.
The team is stationed out of Seeley Lake. When the fire season isn't bad in the area, they are released to fight fires in other areas on a rotation basis. This year, with sixty-four fires on the District so far, they stayed home. "Early in the season they each had a chance to go out of region (Region One of the U.S. Forest Service) once, but since that they have been needed here," said Bill Oelig, Fire Management Officer for the Seeley Lake Ranger District. Oelig said that this year, each of the crew has been on initial attack about twenty times. "That is high," said Becky White, Assistant Fire Management Officer for the District.
"This is the busiest year since 1994," Jon Agner, the Fire Crew Supervisor said. Jon has been with the District for eight years. The Seeley Lake Ranger District has had sixty-four incidents (initial attack fires). His crew has been on fifty-five. The other fires were too difficult to get to or needed specific skills. Smokejumpers or hot shot crews (elite fire crews with specialty skills such as tree feller) were called in on those.
"This year's team is 55-0," said Agner. "Not one fire that has been attacked has escaped control."
"The team is young, but they look out for each other and have had no injuries," said Agner.
The three women on the team are expected to pull their own weight and they do.
The team is led in their efforts by Jon Agner, the Fire Crew Supervisor.
When they are on stand-by at the Forest Service office, they ready themselves for the next fire, clean gear and repair equipment. When that work is done, they play cards. This fire season, dealt card hands have had to sometimes sit on the table for days before they could return to finish the game.