We remember in late July when the #BoxCanyonFire tweets showed up on our social media. In the long, hot and dry North American summer of 2016, it was one more hashtag as communities from California to Canada. The harsh conditions were ripe for disaster, but miraculously the loss of life was incredibly low. Dispute flames towering above cars caught in traffic, a spectacular evacuation of about 80,000 people on Fort MacMurray, Alberta, was a success. Similarly, rapid responses and mandatory evacuations saved lives even as houses were destroyed in a relentless Californian wildfire season.
As the Box Canyon fire burned for week after week, resources increased and rotated through to help contain and suppress the wildfire fire in the USFS Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah. The State’s Air National Guard was mustered to assist with air operations as engine crews worked tirelessly for a month.
On August 27th, almost exactly one month after the wildfire started (human caused on July 28th, 2016), a truck veered into the barriers on the I38 in Blaine, Minnesota. The truck broke apart as it rolled, killing two of the nine occupants. The driver is alleged to have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
The truck was from the Beartown Fire Department (BFD) in Michigan, part of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa Indians. The crew of firefighters were traveling from Michigan in a BFD convoy to join the other firefighters battling the Box Canyon wildfire.
The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community issued the following statements on their Facebook Page:
As we began writing this today, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was gathering for a candlelight vigil to support the firefighters and their families. The Native American Indian Community said via Facebook “The support has been both overwhelming and heartfelt” and all “much appreciated.”
Escorted by law enforcement and fire departments from Minnesota to Michigan, a procession of emergency service vehicles slowly brand the deceased firefighters home. The procession was met by honour guards and FD aerial platform trucks flying the American Flag. In Tribal areas, as the procession passed, traditional Indian songs and dance were performed along the route home.
With nine people involved in the incident, including the death of two BFD Firefighters, the KBIC asked for donations to be addressed to the following account. As always, to avoid digital fraud, you should always go to original sources and satisfy yourself the account details are correct before making any donations.
As the community in Michigan mourns, the Box Canyon fire in Utah continues to burn, along with many others in the United States. The latest update is:
Sept 02, 2016 – The Box Canyon Fire is currently at 4,215 acres and is approximately 20% contained. The USFS issued a special Order restricting access to the through to September 30, 2016. Further details and updates can be found via InciWeb.