Michigan DNR, Hamburg Fire Crews Team up to Train

An injured hunter who “fell” down a 150-foot ravine and a mushroom hunter who went “missing” in the Brighton Recreation Area had to be rescued recently by firefighters and park rangers.

Those were the two scenarios played out recently by the Hamburg Township Fire Department and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources during an intergovernmental training exercise.

“What we’re looking for is working together,” Hamburg Fire Deputy Chief Nick Miller told the estimated two dozen firefighters and DNR park rangers and summer staff who gathered for the training.

“We’d rather find places to make improvements and train so when there’s an emergency, we can provide rapid rescue and get (a victim) out safely,” he said.

Fire Chief Mark Hogrebe told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus that the training went well as the victim, played by park Ranger Jason Becker, was rescued in both scenarios. However, he said his department realized that it needs to make better use of the DNR rangers and staff members because they are the folks who know the trails.

“When our guys were searching on their own, they might have missed some trails; other than that, we found everybody,” he said.

Mike Donnelly, Brighton Recreation Area supervisor, said his rangers and other staff members are responsible for a little more than 5,000 acres that thousands of visitors enjoy each year. Visitors can camp, fish, swim, walk, ride horses and more.

Donnelly said his staff responds to fewer than 10 emergency incidents a year. Those calls typically include a lost person who wandered away from the campsite or got turned around in the woods, or medical emergencies. There are times, however, when park staff throughout the state have the need to call emergency services.

“I want my people to be able to understand how they should respond and how to interact with the emergency responders,” he added.

In the first training scenario, the victim called 911 Central Dispatch to report that he was on an unknown trail and had suffered injuries when he fell. In the second, a third-party 911 caller said a friend went missing while mushroom hunting.

In both cases, Hamburg firefighters and DNR rangers responded.

The group met at the DNR building on Bishop Road, off Chilson Road, in Hamburg Township. Fire Lt. Jase Lawver, who acted as the incident commander, established a command center where fire officials and park rangers reviewed a map and tried to pinpoint the victim’s location.

Using the department’s four-wheelers, the firefighters and rangers found Becker in a ravine off one of the trails. It took firefighters minutes to tether a basket with rope to a four-wheeler. The basket was carried down to the victim, who was pulled up by a human pulley system.

Mike Evanoff, DNR division safety officer, said the training was valuable and that park staff has planned similar training incidents in other areas of the state.

The training is in keeping with the state’s efforts to maintain or improve teamwork between governmental entities.

That training could be prove to be even more valuable if Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to turn Michigan into the trail state becomes a reality.

In November, he unveiled a proposal for a 924-mile trail stretching from Detroit’s Belle Isle to Wisconsin. He also shared his hope to bolster the state’s other trails in an effort for an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient Michigan.

To make the trail a reality, 81.5 miles of new trails would be needed in the Lower Peninsula and 152 miles in the Upper Peninsula.

Snyder said in December that the effort won’t take much money because the state does not plan on purchasing property for the effort, according to a Detroit Free Press article.

Rather, Snyder has already directed the DNR to meet with communities, the federal government and volunteer groups that own or groom trails to see how they can connect and improve the network.

DNR Ranger Deb Stuart said the Brighton Recreation Area does not “have a lot of problems on the trails,” and she believes the additional trails proposed by Snyder will not change that reality.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said.

The recent training was the first trail-related incident the groups carried out, but it is the third time the two entities came together for cross-training.

In the winter, Donnelly trained with firefighters during their annual ice-rescue training on Chilson Pond while Miller, who is the fire squad’s training officer, recently completed a class in cardiopulmonary resuscitation for the DNR personnel.

Hogrebe said the two entities will continue to train together.

“These exercises will aid the DNR and the Hamburg Township Fire Department in being prepared in the case of a real emergency situation,” he said.