This summer and into fall, wildfires have spread in large parts of the country. Crews were sent to help control the fires, including a crew from tribal communities in MN. They fought the Puzzle fire in South Dakota and the Williams Fork and East Troublesome fires in Colorado.
“We all represented the BIA, but we’re pretty much employees of different tribal nations in Minnesota,” said Ferin Davis.
Davis is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band and is the Lead Environmental Scientist for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. They manage approximately 4,500 acres in Scott County, Minnesota, which is just located 30 minutes Southwest of Minneapolis.
Ferin was part of the 13-member crew representing the Bureau of Indian Affairs from Minnesota that went and helped fight wildfires.
“There were firefighters from Leech Lake, Fond du Lac, White Earth, Bois Forte and, I believe Mille Lacs and then us in Shakopee… This was kind of cool that the BIA was able to pull us all together and send out the first all BIA represented module since the nineties.” said Davis
Ferin points out that part of the relationship between SMSC and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is that their firefighting crew assists with wildfires, and in turn, the BIA helps with prescribed burn operations in their community.
The first fire they were called to was in South Dakota on the Rosebud Reservation on October 3rd.
“And so we were pulled there first because we’re a BIA crew and BIA manages that land or helps manage that land. It was 150 acre of fire. When we got there, it was kind of cooling down, but what we did was help really kind of put it to bed,” said Davis.
Then the crew went to Colorado on the 8th, first to the Williams Fork fire.
“It was getting really windy in where we’re at. There are a lot of dead trees, standing, dead trees. So their concern was that these trees can fall on us while we’re working. So when conditions get to be that dangerous, sometimes they’ll take a step back and say, okay, we’re just gonna reset, take the morning off to rehab your tools, get other things organized. We were basically waiting in our trucks, rehabbing our tools and kind of re-positioning for other things,” said Davis.
“And that’s when the East Troublesome Creek fire started. So then that afternoon we were kind of pulled over to that fire because whatever available resources they had, they wanted to respond to that,” she said.
Ferin Davis reported that the MN BIA crew was safe.
“That’s always the end goal is to go home safe.” she said.
Leah Lemm reporting for Minnesota Native News.