West Conshohocken’s Alexander Pratt, pictured third from right, is a member of a crew of volunteer wildland firefighters who have been dispatched from Delaware in response to increased wildfire activity in the western United States. The Delaware Forest Service (DFS) dispatched the crew from Blackbird State Forest in Smyrna on Saturday, July 19th and they were to travel to Redmond, Oregon. The team is getting in position to fight a wildfire in that region and should receive its assignment in the next 24 hours. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho recently upped its National Fire Preparedness Level to 3 on a 5-point scale. However in the Northwest, the regional level is currently at the maximum 5 on a 5-point scale due to the incidence of 17 new fires and 24 large uncontained blazes.
Delaware’s crew is a mixture of veterans and newcomers from public agencies, volunteer fire companies, as well as private citizens who have completed the rigorous training and and are interested in wildland firefighting. Five members of the crew are making their first trip on this assignment. The crew is being led by veteran Samual Topper of the Delaware Forest Service, a regional forester based at Redden State Forest in Georgetown.
Crew members must all hold “red-card” certification from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), have passed a core set of wildfire training courses at the Delaware State Fire School in Dover, completed “live-burn” fire training at the DFS’ annual “Fire Camp,” and completed the demands of the work capacity or “pack test,” which involves carrying a 45-pound pack over a three-mile course in less than 45 minutes.