DNR’s newest skidder aids firefighters’ suppression efforts

BALDWIN — Although Michigan’s fire season is just getting started, the Department of Natural Resources’ newest skidder is already getting a lot of time in the dirt. The forestry skidder, which has been adapted for use in both prescribed burn and wildfire suppression operations, is being used for its first full fire season this year. 

“The skidder’s placement at the Baldwin Field Office is expected to assist DNR staff in reducing the size of wildfires,” said Bruce Tower, fire manager of the Baldwin Field Office. “The skidder, when built into a firefighting vehicle, is the most effective means of building a fireline around a fire. If you can get a fireline built around a fire quickly, the fire size and damage are kept to a minimum and that is the goal in fire containment.”

Staff at the DNR’s Forest Fire Experiment Station designed, manufactured and installed a fireline plow, a water turret and a 400-gallon water tank for the skidder. They also installed a hydraulic winch, upgraded the hydraulic system in order to operate the water pumping feature and installed a rearview camera that will be used to monitor the fireline.

The equipment DNR fire officers and other trained staff use is developed to meet the specific needs that are unique to wildland fires. While it is housed in Baldwin, the skidder will be available for use anywhere throughout the state it is needed. The DNR also sends its equipment and operators to other states if the need arises and Michigan’s fire danger is low.

According to Gary Meese, forest fire officer at the Baldwin Field Office, the skidder and others like it have an expected lifecycle of at least 20 years.

“One of my primary concerns in day-to-day operations is keeping equipment like this in tip-top shape so that it is ready to roll at a moment’s notice,” he said. “I am very excited to have this new addition to our fleet because it means more efficient wildfire containment and suppression.”

Most of Michigan’s wildfires occur in the spring – April, May and June. So far this fire season, the DNR has responded to 34 wildfires (293 acres) statewide.

For more information on the design, manufacture and fabrication of wildfire suppression equipment, visit www.roscommonequipmentcenter.com.

To learn more about the DNR’s wildfire fighting efforts and how to help prevent wildfires, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.