A member of the Gannet Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew uses a drip torch during a burnout operation at the Swan Lake Fire on June 18, 2019. Just as fire squads from other wildlife refuges in the Lower 48 came up to help with the 2019 fire, fire crews from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are now helping fight fires in the Lower 48. (Photo courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry)

A member of the Gannet Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew uses a drip torch during a burnout operation at the Swan Lake Fire on June 18, 2019. Just as fire squads from other wildlife refuges in the Lower 48 came up to help with the 2019 fire, fire crews from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are now helping fight fires in the Lower 48. (Photo courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry)

Kenai Refuge crew called to Washington wildfires

It’s not uncommon to send crews to other wildlife refuges to aid with fire containment.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge sent a crew to the Lower 48 on Friday to help with some of the fires in the Pacific Northwest.

Jeff Bouschor, the fire management officer at the refuge, said that it’s not uncommon to send crews to other wildlife refuges to aid with fire containment. But Bouschor said for the first time the refuge had to send its Type 6 wildland engine on a barge to the Lower 48 to help with the fires.

“This was a little bit different with the engine assignment this year,” he said.

The squad is made up of primarily collateral duty firefighters, which means they’re qualified to help on fire assignments but it’s not their primary focus.

The crew is assisting the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge’s fire squad on both the Walker Creek and Chickadee Creek wildfires. The fires are outside of Tonasket, Washington, and the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is about 20 miles south of Spokane, Washington.

Bouschor said three people were deployed from the refuge last week, rotating with a peninsula crew that had been in Washington on a fire assignment from Aug. 5 through Aug. 20.

“They basically bounced around wherever the need was,” he said, about the crew that recently returned. “It’s very busy down there for sure.”

Fire squads from other wildlife refuges in the Lower 48 came up to help with the 2019 Swan Lake Fire, Bouschor said, and now the Kenai crew is doing the same thing in Washington.

The crew is set to return to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Sept. 4.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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