“Hey, I have to call you back,” stated Jeremy Erickson as he hung up the phone to rejoin the others on the Badger State Fire Suppression Module as they loaded into vehicles to respond to another wildfire that had just been reported on Mark Twain National Forest.

Erickson serves as the Assistant Forest Management Officer from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and oversees the fire management program at the Blackwell Job Corps office in Laona, Wisconsin.   

He is one of the crewmembers on the Badger State Fire Suppression Module.  The call he had to drop was from the Mark Twain National Forest’s Public Affairs Officer who was reaching out to find out more about the unique crew of which Erickson was a member; and what they were doing on the Forest.

“It’s exciting when you hear that a highly-collaborative firefighting module is on your Forest doing good work, so I had to find out more,” stated Cody Norris, Public Affairs Officer for Mark Twain National Forest. When Norris called Erickson, the module had already helped Mark Twain National Forest’s wildland firefighters stop the progression of two new wildfires that day, before Erickson had to hang up to head to a third.  The 19th was a gusty November day with red flag warnings across much of the state—a recipe for new fire starts.

Mark Twain’s Fire Management Officer Jim Cornelius explained the importance of this crew being on the Forest, stating “This can be a challenging time of year for us, and having assistance from a crew like this can be a force multiplier.” 

After a long summer of going to support Western U.S. firefighting efforts, the wildland firefighters from Mark Twain return to Missouri where wildfire season is just starting in the fall. Having firefighters from other areas coming here to support the Forest’s program is effective in meeting mission needs and is a big morale booster.

“The Badger Fire Module also symbolizes how effective our wildland firefighting programs are at bringing people together across boundaries to serve the public in a common mission,” added Cornelius.

Across what boundaries does Badger Fire Module build bridges?  State boundaries for one. 

The module hails from Wisconsin, but after arriving, added a firefighter from Mark Twain National Forest who works with Mingo Job Corps, in Puxico. The Badger Fire Module builds a bridge across Nations. The Forest Service and Blackwell Job Corps have an agreement with Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to bring fire management personnel onto the module from Tribes working under the Great Lakes Agency (GLA). 

One current crewmember is Ho-Chunk Nation, others are Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.  The BIA, Forest Service, Job Corps, and Tribal Nations come together on this crew through a common goal of utilizing prescribed fire for good and stopping destructive wildfires—an excellent example of collaboration in action.  

When Erickson was able to return the call to Norris, he provided more information about the module. 

“On the Badger State Fire Suppression Module, we are all learning from one another, and learning from the Forests we visit and support.”  He relayed the team’s respect for the professionalism of Mark Twain National Forest firefighters and was excited that his crew had so many opportunities to help while they were here.

The crew is also a bridge for sharing experience, as it provides a platform to connect highly trained professionals with Job Corps students interested in fire utilization and prevention on public lands as some of the crewmembers are in training roles for parts of the year.