Maine Forest Rangers were honored in Augusta Thursday for something they put together to help keep people safe.
It's called the Telly Award and it's given to honor excellence in video production. Thursday in Augusta it was presented to Maine Forest Rangers and the production company that produced their video, Defensible Space, that shows people how to protect their homes and camps from wildfires. The project was funded by a fire prevention and safety grant from FEMA. "We award money to fire departments and organizations, like the Maine Forest Service, to do fire prevention work. To get the word out to the public on what's needed to prevent fires," said David Parr, a Regional Fire Program Specialist with FEMA.
The film focuses on the concept of defensible space and urges people to clear away things that can fuel a wildfire on its way to a camp or home.
It features Chuck Johnston who, in May of 2010, was alone at his camp in an unorganized territory when he built a small campfire to cook a steak. "Before I started the fire, I made sure I swept the pine needles away from the fireplace," Johnston recalls.
The fire he made started small, but didn't stay that way. "I saw this billow of smoke coming up. When I went there I saw the telltale 'V' where the spark had started in the pine needles. I fought it for awhile, but I didn't have any communication. So I finally after 45 minutes had to make a decision, because it was spreading. I went to where I could make a phone call, which was 5 miles away."
By the time forest rangers arrived there was little they could do to save Johnston's camps. Three cabins, a woodshed, and nearly 400 trees were destroyed. "One of them had a date on it of 1916," Johnston said. "So they were very precious and more people than myself recognized them as something to cherish."
To others who may be in a similar situation he offers this advice: "Conditions need to be optimum or your situation needs to be optimum before you start a fire. Don't take chances. That's what I did and I paid the price."
You can see the video in its entirety here: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/fpd/pages/wui/wui_video.html#wui_video
Maine Forest Service Rangers to Receive Award for Video on Wildfires