LABADIE, M0o. – Wildfires continue to devastate the west. But fire crews continue their battle against those flames and they are getting help from across the country, including from right here in Missouri.
Meet dad, Assistant Chief Byron Long, and son, Capt. Richard Long. Both are with the Boles Fire Protection District. But for the last few months, they have been volunteering as wildland firefighters, which have taken them to California, Washington, and Wyoming, and wherever major wildfires are burning.
Working in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Department of the Interior, and the National Park Service, they join others in providing aid to crews at fires across the west.
“Just like we would if something major were to happen here. There’s just not enough people to go around,” Byron Long said.
The father and son train on their own time and will spend up to 28 days on assignment away from their families.
“So, I use my vacation time and I’ll take a trip or two a year,” Rich Long said.
With our recent rains and high humidity, both Byron and Rich stressed that we can’t imagine how truly bone dry it is out west and how that makes firefighting so tough.
“It is super dry, super dry. Just driving in you can see how low the rivers and reservoirs are,” Rich Long said.
“The actual standing live fuels have less moisture in them than lumber you would buy in a lumber yard. So, even these large-diameter trees, it takes very little for them to ignite. Which means we were having a lot more difficulty trying to control the fires once they got started,” Byron Long said.
Byron Long says residents were scared and had never seen conditions so bad. He also stressed that they were so, so grateful for all the fire crews do.
“When people hang their bedsheets out and paint ‘Thank you, Firefighters,’ it makes it all worthwhile,” he said.