Maine forest rangers respond to western wildfires

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine - A Maine crew has joined hundreds of firefighters battling out-of-control wildfires in western states. Forest rangers are deployed each year, responding to wildfires in the U.S. and Canada, says District Forest Ranger Robby Gross, with orders placed nationwide as fire levels increase. He says both personnel and equipment were deployed last week to fires in California and Montana.

"There are five forest rangers from the state of Maine, four are part of the two engines that we've sent, and one is in Montana. Bill is in Montana on the Alice Springs fire."

Two rangers are from the central region of the state, two are from the southern region, while Bill Greaves is from Aroostook County. Gross says they'll each serve two weeks, with extensions made if needed, then they'll return home, and more rangers will be sent out, if necessary.

"It's our expectation those engines will be on the Carr fire in California for as long as they are needed."

Both inter-state and international agreements enable the department to respond to calls for help from both sides of the border.

"That is through cooperative agreements that we have with the United States Forest Service and other D O I - Department of Interior - agencies. We also have compact agreements. That's what allows us to go to Quebec; and other state-to-state agreements."

Gross says they take each fire seriously, using it as an educational opportunity.

We look at them being able for us to get valuable training and experience, so that we can better ourselves for fire response here in Maine.

The mutual aid provided is a reciprocal process, with Maine having access to the same assistance should the need arise. In addition, there's no cost to taxpayers.

"It's important to note that it's really a net zero for us. We have the ability to recoup those costs. While it's critical to help, our number one responsibility is here in the state of Maine."

Gross says so far this year, forest rangers have responded to 460 wildland fires in Maine, covering about 662 acres. In comparison, the Carr fire in California had burned 164,413 acres and was considered 47 percent contained as of Tuesday.