Firefighters, forest management officials and members of the community honored Rocky Infanger, the Fire Chief of the Wolf Creek/Craig Volunteer Fire Department, for his work on wildfire mitigation.
Infanger is one of only seven people nationwide to be awarded the 2019 National Wildfire Mitigation Award.
The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS).
At the City/County Building in Helena on February 13, colleges and peers of Infanger recounted stories and praised his decades of service in wildfire mitigation.
“[Rocky] is the model of the work we need to be doing,” said DNRC Forestry Division Administrator Sonya Germann.
Governor Steve Bullock had a letter read on his behalf at the ceremony. He praised the fire chief for his commitment to protecting the people of Montana.
“You have gone above and beyond to serve your community and your state,” wrote Bullock. “It’s ordinary people like you that do extraordinary things to keep Montana the last best place.”
Sheriff Leo Dutton had work with Infanger professionally since his EMT days 30 years ago and said the firefighter’s concern for others defines him.
“What he brings to mitigation is passion and purpose,” said Dutton.
The commissioners of Lewis and Clark, Broadwater and Jefferson Counties also declared Wednesday, February 13 as “Rocky Infanger Day.”
“This is a huge honor,” said Infanger, “I started out back in 1985 — I’ve gotten a few honors over the years and to come to the national level is pretty impressive.”
Infanger said he’s only been able to do the work he’s done because of the great people he’s had the honor of working with over the years.
“From the firemen that I work with to the boards I sit on to groups I interact with — lot of great people out there and it takes a team effort to do this stuff,” said Infanger.
The fire chief made sure to thank his wife and children for being understanding and supportive while he was out on a fire.
Infanger would also like to urge the public to begin fire mitigation on their homes as early as possible. By doing so, he said a family can be better prepared once fire season starts.
“Now is the time to be preparing for that,” explained Infanger. “People don’t think about that with the snow on the ground but now is the time.”
The 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Awards will be presented at the Wildland-Urban Interface Conference in Reno, Nevada on March 27.
Hamilton resident Byron Bonney of Bitter Root Resource Conservation and Development was also named a 2019 Wildfire Mitigation Award winner.
-Reported by John Riley/MTN News