LOGAN — Following a two-week span of fighting a raging forest fire that consumed over 9,000 acres of cattle country and dense wilderness in Paradise Valley, Montana, Mingo County Department of Forestry Fire Warden Benjamin Brock has returned home, awaiting his next deployment.
Brock, who has been in this position since 2009 and works out of the Logan County Division of Forestry Office located within the Chief Logan State Park, had just returned two weeks prior to being dispatched to the Pine Creek Fire in Montana from a five- day stay in Payson, Ariz., where he was on the front-line of a large forest fire that destroyed a large area.
Brock, along with Jeremy Vance and Trey Vance, STAT Ambulance employees who are also employed on a part time basis with the Forestry Division, are a part of the East Coast Operations with the National Forestry Service that can be sent anywhere in the United States on a moment’s notice where there is a fire that involves property that is part of a nationally recognized forest region.
The three men drove to Harrisburg, Pa., where they met the rest of their West Virginia module made up of a total of 20 individuals. Firefighters from Penn. and Maine also joined them, and they then flew to St. Louis, Mo., where they combined with yet another module of men before flying on to Bozeman, Mont., where they made the drive to the scene of the fire located in the Gallatin National Forest.
“This particular fire originated on private property due to a piece of equipment that malfunctioned and ignited,” stated Brock. “We were told the fire destroyed a total of five residences and several outbuildings, and over 9,000 acres of property before it was extinguished.”
Brock explained that the location in which they were fighting the fire was right on the Yellowstone River, and said there were several cattle ranches in close proximity that included a lot of hay and other irrigation crops, which only fueled the flames. Once the fire spread into the forest, the firefighters faced a rough terrain and a steep mountain region. Nighttime temperatures plummeted near the 20 degree mark, making the overnight stays in nothing but tents and sleeping bags an uncomfortable adventure.
Prior to fighting the fires in Montana and Arizona, the module of forestry wardens have also been deployed to Custer, S.D. and Rawlings, Wyo., this year, where they were on standby for a time period of a few days in each case, should their services be required.
Brock stated that although his job takes away from his home and family for what sometimes results in weeks at a time, he is happy to travel anywhere he can be of assistance.
“If we needed help here in West Virginia, I know others would journey to give us a hand and I’m proud to do the same,” remarked the Division of Forestry Warden. “I’ve met some wonderful people in my travels and made a lot of friends. They’re a dedicated group of firefighters that are committed to serving wherever they can be of assistance, and do a fine job.”