DCNR Bureau Of Forestry Applauded For Hurricane Sandy Efforts

It’s a drill DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry’s Division of Forest Fire Protection knows so well: alert, feed, house and transport would-be firefighters from their Harrisburg mobilization center to infernos charring distant states like California, Nevada or Utah.

Hurricane Sandy changed that operation … but not its efficiency. Or its commitment.

This time—between October 29 and November 16—disaster crews were flying into Harrisburg International Airport, bound for the storm-ravaged East Coast. And bureau personnel again tackled the task of feeding, housing and transporting crews. A lot of crews.

“Soon after the storm passed, requests for additional resources to help New York and New Jersey brought crews swarming into Harrisburg,” said Thomas Parent a federal disaster coordination official. “At the height of the incident, there were more than 1,100 wildland firefighters engaged in response to this effort, most of which entered through the Harrisburg Mobilization Center.

“The task of receiving and transporting hundreds of wildland firefighters and their equipment—arriving on chartered aircraft and moving to ground transportation, feeding areas and temporary housing locations throughout the Harrisburg area—was enormous. A lesser prepared unit would have been overwhelmed by this mission.”

Parent chairs the Eastern Area Coordinating Group, serving federal and state wildland fire agencies within the 20-state Eastern Area. It provides logistical support, resources, and intelligence for anticipated and ongoing wildland fire activity, and facilitates movement of resources (people, aircraft, and ground equipment) among member agencies.

In a January 7 letter to DCNR Secretary Richard Allan, Parent expressed “sincere thanks to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry,” noting:  “The team performed in a highly professional manner, and their work has been recognized by wildland firefighters throughout the U.S.”

Due to the scope of this operation, the Division of Forest Fire Protection was assisted by other bureau staff from several state forests rest Districts. A total of 30 bureau employees were involved, helping channel disaster crews from airport tarmac to eventual storm-area deployment.

In between, crews were moved from the airport to a staging area located at the Lower Swatara Fire Co. Meals and lodging then were obtained, with most crews spending one night in the Harrisburg area before driving to assignments in New York or New Jersey. Many reported to Fort Dix, N.J., where major efforts were coordinated to clear storm damage from roads and towns.

(Reprinted from DCNR's January 23 Resources newsletter.)


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