Local firefighters recognized for work last summer
L-R Howie Kent and Colin Moon, both employees with the Clearwater Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Unit. Kent was awarded the 2000 BFPA Firefighter of the Year award. He received the plaque and $1,000 for his outstanding firefighting performance during the season of 2000. Moon was awarded the 2000 Southwest DNRC Land Office Employee of the Year Award. He received a plaque.
Neil Carlson received the 2000 Southwest Land Office Safety Award. He received a plaque.
July 26, 2001
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
By Patricia Swan Smith
For the Pathfinder
Two full-time Seeley residents and one seasonal firefighter from the DNRC Clearwater Unit received awards for their efforts during last year's fire season at the awards ceremony held July 3rd at the Clearwater Unit.
Howie Kent, who has worked in the Seeley area for nine years, received the Blackfoot Forest Protective Association (BFPA) Award, which included a plaque and $1,000.
Kent is a Senior Engine Boss, and has been with DNRC for 11 years.
"Howie met the challenge of 34 different fire assignments on the unit," DNRC Clearwater Unit Fire Supervisor Colin Moon said. "He performed as Incident Commander on 13 fires, 5 of which were type 3 complexity.
"He was assigned to take command of the Strawberry Ridge fire when it escaped initial attack. His excellent use of retardant, helicopters, dozers and engines stopped this fire just as it was becoming a major threat to the town of Seeley Lake.
"He faced the challenge of a shortage of resources , and Howie was a master at contingency planning. I believe that he was an obvious choice for the BFPA Firefighter of the Year award for 2000."
Kent, his wife Nickie and two children reside in St. Ignatius.
The DNRC seasonal firefighter is selected for the BFPA award by showing high standards of excellence in firefighting. Nominees are ranked according to their performance, extraordinary acts, safety record, and saving property and saving the state money by suppressing fires quickly. There is one nominee from each of the 13 DNRC units.
The BFPA was formed after the death of 83 firefighters and 7 civilians, and the loss of approximately 3 million acres in Montana and Idaho in the 1910 fires by private property owners. They knew effective fire protection had to become a priority.
In 1971, when the cost and liability exceeded the ability of the BFPA, fire protection responsibility was given to the State of Montana. In 1995, Montana Department of State Lands approached the BFPA to request that an award be given to DNRC seasonal firefighters since they were the ones who fought most of the fires previously handled by the BFPA. In 1996, the first award was presented to a seasonal firefighter.
Two BFPA awards have gone to seasonals employed at the Clearwater DNRC Unit
Colin Moon, DNRC Clearwater Unit Fire Supervisor, received the 2000 Southwest Land Office Employee of the Year for Fire Management Award. The award goes to an employee who excels in his or her job, which includes fire suppression, detection, prevention, coordination, readiness and follow-up. The employee is selected by DNRC peers.
He has been with DNRC for 20 years. His first fire was in 1969 while working for the BFPA.
"I'm tickled to be a part of such a fun unit, and it's an honor. The thing that makes it so special is the selection is made by a vote of my peers in the Southwest Land Office," Moon said. "This season we met our goals, and our goals every year are to suppress 95% of the fires at 10 acres or less with no serious injuries or deaths. It was great to work with all the various local fire departments and people who came from all over the world last summer."
The Clearwater Unit Manager Steve Wallace said, "I think it's great Colin received the award. Any supervisor can say really nice things about an employee, but when the co-workers elect him for the award it makes it extra special.
"Colin by far deserves it. Most of the Clearwater Unit's success can be credited to Colin's dedication and hard work. People like working for him, so they'll go the extra mile."
Moon and his wife Jeanne have lived in Seeley since 1980. They have one daughter.
Neil Carlson, Fire Team Leader, received the 2000 Southwest Land Office Employee of the Year for Safety Award.
"Last summer was clearly a time when the standards for safety had to raise to a new level," Moon said. "Those things don't just happen by themselves; Neil kept the bar higher when it came to the safety of the crews. He had an exceptional record. He's the reason for our record for last year. Lots of people talk about safety, but Neil makes it happen."
Carlson has been with DNRC for twelve years.
"I'm honored to get the award, but I really couldn't have done it without the team work of the DNRC Clearwater Initial Attack Unit crews," Carlson said.
Carlson was born and raised in Seeley Lake. His wife Cindy moved here in 1982.
Each of the 13 Southwest Lands DNRC Units received an Administrators Award for the seasonal firefighters' outstanding performance during the 2000 fire season. The Clearwater Unit 2000 seasonal firefighters included: Niel Carlson, Gerald Job, Howie Kent, Jay Fasset, Aaron Schendel, David Geyer, Erik Peterson, Jon Iverson, John Carey, Chuck Dilley, Joe McCoy, Josie Sutton, Ben Wood, Nathan Dague, Michael Wiederhold and Tara Perkins.
Much of Seeley is under DNRC protection, and last summer was the toughest we've seen for many years. Clearwater Unit had a total of 125 fires, with 316 acres lost. Of the 125 fires, 42 started during a 24-hour period of July 13th and 14th. Another 20 started during a 24-hour period on July 26th and 27th.
The largest single fire, the East Fork Chamberlain claimed 51 acres. Only 8 of the 125 fires exceeded 10 acres; 117 fires were under 10 acres. No structures were lost during the summer wildland fires.
The peak number of firefighting personnel was 427, and there were no fatalities or serious injuries.
Moon, Carlson, Kent and many of the other 2000 seasonals are at the Clearwater Unit again this season. While no one can predict the fire season, at least we know we have some of the best right here in the area.