Forty firefighters gathered at 401 Fairgrounds Rd. in Rolla, Missouri, on Friday afternoon, July 20. Support personnel at the Missouri Iowa Interagency Coordination Center (MOCC), were checking everyone in and preparing them for a two-week wildland firefighting assignment.

The individuals formed two twenty-person handcrews, and departed from Rolla for St. Louis on Saturday morning.  Once in St. Louis, they boarded a plane with another 20-person handcrew from Indiana.  The three crews flew together to Redmond, OR to be assigned to whichever wildland fire needs them at that time.  

A handcrew uses hand tools, like shovels and pulaskis, to establish breaks in vegetation to stop, or at least slow, a wildfires progression along its flanks.  In cooperation with other resources, like engines and flight operations, the handcrews provide a very effective means in eventually containing (stopping the spread) and controlling (putting out the fire).  The two crews from Missouri and Iowa have a tough two weeks ahead of them, but are eager to assist in the national wildland firefighting effort.  

As support personnel at MOCC (part of the Mark Twain National Forest’s Supervisor’s Office) check in the firefighters, they must weigh both people and equipment to ensure that they are within the thresholds of the aerial transportation.  

“We send crews to support wildland firefighting across the nation,” stated Jim Cornelius, Fire Management Officer for Mark Twain National Forest.”  The dispatchers that work under his supervision provide the administrative expertise to make this possible.  “When it comes to firefighting and fire prevention, we are a team—you can see that in the interagency cooperation and in the professional support everyone provides to get these crews to where they need to go,” stated Cornelius.

Individuals on the crews come from all over.  Some of the Missouri communities represented by this 40-person crew include:  Van Buren, Rolla, Eminence, Labadie, Jefferson City, Camdenton, Mansfield, Kansas City, Ashburn, Ava, Hannibal, Ozark, St. Joseph, Birch Tree, Nevada, Granby, Memphis, and Collins.  Crewmembers also come together from a variety of organizations.  Iowa crewmembers hail from Ankeny, Carroll, Shueyville, Tipton, Cedar Falls, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Missouri Valley, Pulaski, and Council Bluffs.  A large number of these two crews is from the state of Missouri.  Crewmembers also come from the State of Iowa, the National Park Service, and from the U.S. Forest Service (from both the Mark Twain National Forest and Mingo Job Corps).