During the devastating wildfires in Quebec, my fellow firefighting teams’ collaborative efforts and experiences have provided valuable lessons for Maine. As a Maine Forest Service district ranger, I had the opportunity to play a pivotal role in fighting these fires, which has left an indelible mark on me personally and professionally.

Canada Wildfires

In this satellite image taken June 5, smoke from wildfires burning in Quebec, top center, drifts southward. CIRA/NOAA via AP

I faced formidable challenges when I was assigned to an incident management team that confronted five large fires spanning approximately 30,000 acres each. These fires, caused primarily by lightning strikes, ravaged densely forested and mountainous regions. The spruce budworm outbreak had already impacted the softwood stands, making them particularly vulnerable to torching and surface fires because of heavy fuel loads.

My opportunity to assist in the Canadian firefighting efforts was made possible through the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Compact, a mutual aid group established after the devastating fires in Maine in 1947. As part of an interagency incident management team, my expertise was valuable in combating the fires in Quebec.

Leveraging my experience with similar terrain and forest types in northern Maine, our incident management team employed familiar wildfire suppression tactics. We learned about the unique capabilities of the CL-415 water bombers used by the Canadian firefighting agency SOPFEU, which could drop 1,500 gallons of water compared to Maine Forest Service’s 200-gallon helicopter drops. Overcoming the language barrier, we utilized effective communication strategies like Google Translate.

I served as a division supervisor, directing the firefighting efforts of hand crews, water bombers and helicopters. Other Maine rangers took on important roles such as safety officer and provided support in mapping, weather analysis and fire behavior prediction. The diverse expertise and training acquired through this experience enhanced our qualifications for wildland firefighting and equipped us to tackle significant fire seasons in Maine.

Cooperation among agencies and organizations was key. My team and I worked closely with the SOPFEU, local firefighters and even members of the Canadian military. The arrival of South Korean wildland firefighters highlighted the global support and solidarity in the face of these wildfires. The Canadian government and local communities provided invaluable assistance by closing the forest to the public and logging operations.


The long-term impacts of the wildfires in the affected areas are cause for concern, with potential ecological consequences and the loss of remote homes and camps. To mitigate such effects, critical lessons emerge. Continued mutual aid agreements and resource sharing are vital. The understanding gained from fighting fires in “bug-killed” spruce forests presents an opportunity to enhance Maine’s wildfire management strategies. Targeted prevention and mitigation efforts can protect ecosystems and communities.

Personally and professionally, this experience has significantly advanced my qualifications, benefiting the Maine Forest Service and ensuring our preparedness for future wildfire seasons. Maine must continue prioritizing wildfire preparedness by always seeking and strengthening collaboration, investing in advanced equipment and training, and implementing comprehensive mitigation measures.

The MFS provides support and assistance with community wildfire protection plans and federal grant programs such as the Community Wildfire Defense Grant. Both programs are community-based and can help prevent and mitigate the threat of wildfires. These programs and other ongoing initiatives empower local organizations and residents to proactively safeguard their communities against wildfires.

This latest collaborative effort in Quebec is another opportunity to learn from our neighbors’ and colleagues’ experiences and share and expand our expertise. Collaboration is the Maine Forest Service mindset. Together, we can collectively work toward building a resilient future in Maine that effectively mitigates the risks posed by wildfires and other challenges like insect infestations.

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