Fire Departments' Mutual Aid saves homes from forest fire
LAC LA BELLE -- Five volunteer fire departments and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters joined forces for
nearly four hours on Thursday, May 23, to stop a forest fire from damaging lakeshore homes in Lac La Belle.
According to Lac La Belle Fire Chief Howard Lahti, the fire started when high winds blew a tree against a power line on the lake side of the Gay Lac La Belle Road, not far from the Little Gratiot River crossing of the road.
Alerted at 3:02 p.m. by the Michigan State Police Negaunee dispatch, Lac La Belle firefighters were on the scene at 3:27 p.m.
All Lac La Belle firefighters participated. They were soon joined by volunteers from the Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, Allouez Township and Sherman Township Volunteer Fire Departments and by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) firefighters.
"Thanks to all the Mutual Aid with water, we were able to control (the fire) before it did any damage to houses,"
Lahti said. "Without Mutual Aid it would have been a disaster."
Members of the Copper Country Volunteer Firemen's Association have Mutual Aid agreements to provide assistance when another department requests it. The Negaunee Dispatch also calls the DNR when a forest fire is reported.
"They are more prepared to fight forest fires than we are because of the equipment they have," Lahti said.
He noted the DNR has heavy equipment such as bulldozers that can get into places the volunteer firefighters can't reach.
The DNR team traveled to Lac La Belle from Twin Lakes, a distance of more than
Lahti estimated the area damaged by the fire to be less than five acres. However, he added, the blaze had come as close as 1,000 feet to houses when it was finally extinguished at 7:25 p.m. Starting on the lake side of the road, it had at one point spread to the other side of the road, where it was put out right away. The fire caused extensive damage to trees.
"The fire was going at the top of the trees -- from tree to tree," he said. "If the wind had not died down, it would have been much worse."
Grant Township Supervisor Ken Korhorn praised the firefighters for their prompt, cooperative efforts.
"It was indeed fortunate that no dwellings were seriously threatened," Korhorn said, "and that was due in no small part to the quick response of the Lac La Belle, Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor, Allouez and Sherman Fire Departments as well as the DNR Fire Dept. Had the wind driven the fire east a bit further, two log homes and several cottages would have been endangered."
Upper Peninsula Power Company workers arrived to repair the power line damage.
"When they turned the power on it started another fire," Lahti said, "but the Power Company cut the tree down so the fire could be put out right away."
Local residents phoned both the Keweenaw County Sheriff's Office and the
Negaunee Dispatch to report the fire. The Keweenaw County Sheriff's Department
also contacted Negaunee and later arrived at the scene to assist with traffic control.
Members of both the Lac La Belle Fire Department and their Auxiliary
expressed appreciation for the help received from local citizens during the
Auxiliary member Joann Lahti noted the annual Lac La Belle Fire Department
Pancake Breakfast, held in April, raises funds for fire hall improvements.
"We also give heartfelt thanks to all the people who contributed to and
participated in our Pancake Breakfast in April," Joann Lahti said.
"Because of them it was a success."
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