USFS-NPS joint wildfire training in Indiana

Indiana Dunes and Midewin Hotshots
Indiana Dunes and Midewin Hotshots
Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Fire Management Staff

National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service fire crews recently got together in Indiana for annual wildfire refresher training. The following information is provided by Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:


Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Fire Management and Midewin Interagency Hotshot Crew recently conducted several joint training exercises in preparation for the 2013 Fire Season.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, the home unit for Midewin IHC, and Indiana Dunes have a shared fire history going back over ten years. Being only about an hour’s drive apart has been a big benefit to both programs.

Both units have shared resources for prescribed fires in the spring and fall. The engines from Indiana Dunes often travel to Midewin for fire support and the IHC overhead have traveled to Indiana to fill key overhead positions on prescribed fires.

Since 2010, the two fire programs have been conducting joint Annual Fire Refreshers for their full-time fire staffs. Having firefighters from two agencies and two different resource types (hand crews and engine modules) has provided for good sharing of information, skills and experiences. These joint refreshers then provide an additional source of information as the two crews then provide annual refreshers to the rest of their home unit’s staff and at other outlying units.

This year that joint refresher training extended to the Hotshot crew’s required 2 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 session in the dunes along Lake Michigan. After PT, the IHC had a question and answer session with Indiana Dunes AFMO 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 Hotshot crew 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 member of the Indiana Dunes fire staff while working on a resource management project in February. The Cowles Bog Tree Accident provided the Hotshots with a chance to introduce crewmembers from the west to the dangers of falling operations in the east. An open discussion about cutting and falling safety and emergency plans for fires and project work followed.

In the afternoon the IHC broke down into Squads to conduct 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.Packaging a victim


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.

Blindfolded ATV operator
A blindfolded ATV operator! What could possibly go wrong? (kidding)

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 mid-western fire crews has set the stage for many years of continued co-operation on the fireline and in the training room.

(end of news release)

**** has an article and photos about a recent prescribed fire conducted in the National Lakeshore.


Thanks go out to Dan and Micah

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.