Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

The Midewin Hotshots and the Indiana Dunes fire staff group up for a photo.

Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore fire management staff.

Park and Hotshots Conduct Joint Annual Refresher Training

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana and Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew, Illinois
Cohesive Strategy—Response to Wildfire*

In March 2013, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Fire Management and Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) conducted several joint training exercises in preparation for the 2013 fire season.

Since 2010, the two fire programs have been conducting joint annual fire refreshers for their full-time fire staffs. This year the joint refresher training extended to the Midewin IHC’s required two-week annual training. On March 15, the entire Midewin IHC traveled to Indiana Dunes for a day of training facilitated by the fire staff of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

The day started with a physical training (PT) session in the dunes along Lake Michigan. After PT, the IHC had a question and answer session with Indiana Dunes Assistant Fire Management Officer, MaryEllen Whitenack. This classroom talk gave the newer IHC firefighters a different point of view on fire management, leadership and how to succeed in their career. The IHC tries to have someone in a leadership or program management role at each unit they go to speak to their crew as part of a season-long professional development program.

After their talk on leadership, the hotshots reviewed a Facilitated Learning Analysis of a tree falling incident that had recently occurred at Indiana Dunes. The crew was able to visit the area where a tree had fallen on a Indiana Dunes fire staff member, while working on a resource management project in February. The Cowles Bog Tree Felling Accident provided the hotshots with a chance learn about the dangers of felling operations in the east. An open discussion about cutting and felling safety and emergency plans for fires and project work followed.

A group of firefighters gather around a firefighter on a backboard during a simulated exercise.

One of the break-out sessions consisted of a skill session on backboarding and carrying an injured crewmember from the woods.

In the afternoon, the crew conducted break-out sessions with the Indiana Dunes staff. Sessions included a team-building exercise based around a mock airplane crash on a desert island and how to survive with limited items; and a skill session on backboarding and carrying out an injured firefighter from the woods. A third break-out station consisted of a crewmember using a handheld radio to communicate with other crew members on a UTV. The UTV driver and passenger were blindfolded and had to be guided thru a series of traffic cones over the radio.

The training day concluded with a session on Type 6 and Type 3 engine operations. Hotshots were introduced to the tools, techniques and procedures unique to engine operations in an urban national park.

This year’s pre-season training for the two unique yet distinctly Midwestern fire crews has set the stage for many years of continued cooperation on the fireline and in the training room.

Contact: MaryEllen Whitenack, Indiana Dunes Assistant Fire Management Officer

Email: mary_ellen_whitenack@nps.gov

Phone: (219) 395-1683

Contact: Nate Hein, Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew Assistant Superintendent

Email: jnhein@fs.fed.us

Phone: (815) 423-2177

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.