California bound local fire team heads to golden state

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
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Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Capt. Torsten Prahl of Livingston Fire and Rescue gets a farewell hug from his son Fritz Prahl, 7, before departing with two other area firefighters to assist with the California wildfires.

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Local firefighters deploying to fight fires in California are from left, Benjamin Bernard of Park County Rural Fire, Livingston Fire and Rescue Engineer Darren Kelley, center and Capt. Torsten Prahl.


With wildfires raging in northern California, seven fire engines from across Montana, including from Livingston Fire and Rescue, depart for California today.

Three local firefighters deployed Tuesday as part of a statewide wildfire strike team. Capt. Torsten Prahl and Engineer Darren Kelley of LFR and Ben Bernard of Park County Rural Fire District # 1 loaded their belongings and equipment into an engine this morning at the LFR station.

The team will be on an 18-day assignment as a structural protection unit.

LFR Chief Ken MacInnes received the request at 4 p.m. Monday from the Montana Department of Emergency Services based in Helena.

The request was initiated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Cal Fire, MacInnes said.

MacInnes asked for volunteers from among his crew willing to make the trip.

Prahl said he volunteered for the experience, leaving his wife and two children at home.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “California helps us (with firefighting).”

MacInnes said his department has the staff to stay full time in the event of a local fire, and California is paying for the assistance.

MacInnes said structural defense is a “very dynamic fire attack. It’s very rewarding but very hard work.”

Along with Livingston and Park County, other cities are sending firefighters for a total of seven fire engines, including Bozeman, Columbus, Corvallis, Butte and Missoula — the latter of which is sending two engines — destined for Mendocino County in northern California.

Park County Emergency Services Director Greg Coleman told the Park County Commission on Tuesday that resources would be tight in the event of a wildfire in Paradise Valley.

Coleman said that the Bacon Rind fire, on the edge of Yellowstone National Park, struggled to find a 20-person crew to fight the 412-acre fire.

“Every region is holding tight on their resources,” Coleman said. “In the event of a fire here, we’re going to need to make due on local resources.”