Custer Gallatin National Forest
U.S. Forest Service
10 East Babcock Ave.
Bozeman, MT 59771
Florida to Montana Lending a Hand to Neighbors in Need, During the Fire Season and Beyond
Bozeman, MT - FNF – The National Forests in Florida and the Flathead National Forest, along with most of the National Forests in Idaho and Montana, have a long-standing agreement, helping out across jurisdictions and fire seasons. “Most years firefighters from the Flathead, Custer Gallatin and a variety of other National Forests in Idaho and Montana come and help us burn in Florida and we make our way up here for the Montana fire season,” said Jessica Vincent, Engine Boss and crew lead for the current Florida - Flathead Crew.
This crew of 8 firefighters, known as Engine 651 is here on the Custer Gallatin National Forest, helping with the Bridger Foothills Fire. Four of the crew are from Florida and four from the Flathead National Forest in NW Montana. Joining us from each of the National Forests in Florida, the Osceola National Forest, the Apalachicola, and the Ocala Forests. The crew consists of a former beach lifeguard, an Army veteran, a Navy veteran and heavy equipment operator, another who spent years working with troubled youth, a first-year firefighter, timber strike team forestry technicians, and the son of a smokejumper, saying ‘fire is in the blood’. The crews experience ranges from first year to 19 + years in fire. Bringing all that experience together you are looking at 72 years of assorted life and fire experience coming to Bozeman, MT and working together to help our Neighbors on the Bridger Foothills Fire.
The crew is enjoying the views and topography of the Bridger Mountains we call home. A couple of the crew noted “seeing snow for the first time!” Another, Haley, her first year in fire says, “she loves the dynamic of fighting fire and being in snow.” As the seasons change here in Bozeman and the fall equinox passes us by, the crew has enjoyed the evenings and big skies of Montana with sunsets and wildlife often times coming off the line with those sunset backdrops.
Interagency Across the Nation
The Fire family is pretty small once you get involved, working across the nation and in recent examples across the world, wildland firefighters have common training protocols and come together in stressful situations to do what they are trained for. Working under the ICS system or Incident Command System, firefighters can be deployed across the nation and are quickly briefed on an area. Taking into account the particular fire, topography, fuels, weather, terrain, local factors and more.
This Florida - Flathead crew as they have heartedly been dubbed, had to acclimate to the elevation and the weather, but in many ways are enjoying the lower humidity (compared to Florida) and the cooler temperatures. The views are also making the trip an experience not forgotten. “It was pretty neat the other day getting above, in the open areas and seeing the mountains beyond,” (the Absaroka and Crazy Mountains from the crew’s viewpoint). Max, a Flathead Timber Crew Member who has also spent time in Bozeman adds “that’s one of the best things about living here in Montana, those views!”
If you see our fire crews out continuing to mop-up the Bridger Foothills Fire give them a hearty Montana welcome and sincere thank you. We’ve appreciated their hard work and hope they take in some of our local Montana living and culture while here. Stay safe out there.