Justin Thaine and the rest of the team from New York were out there for two weeks, helping in whatever way they were asked to contain a Montana fire that began about a week before they arrived.

The same day he returned to the area, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forest ranger, based in Angelica, talked about the time spent fighting the Sunrise Fire in Lolo National Forest in Montana. Public safety was top priority while containing the wildfire, which began July 16 and was caused by lightning, according to the incident information system website InciWeb. As of Wednesday afternoon, the blaze affected almost 14,600 acres about 11 miles southeast of Superior, Mont.

“It all depends on what your assignment is for that day, where they need people,” Thaine said when asked how his team contributed in the battle against the wildfire. “We did a lot of structure protection, a lot of line improvement — we’re cutting trees and brush along the roads and digging lines around homes, setting up sprinklers and stuff. We did a little bit of what’s called mop-up ... You might mop up 100 feet in from a road or a bulldozer line. You’re extinguishing smoldering remnants in an area the fire has already burned through. That’s where you get really filthy and dirty doing that, because you’re in the ash.”

Thaine remembers an older woman who lived in an area they were protecting. The forest ranger said she chose not to vacate her residence until the last day he and the New York team were there.

“The first priority was public safety. People were evacuated. We found out that in Montana they can’t force you to leave,” he said. “We were protecting her house and we had pumps set up around it. At a certain part of the day we would turn on the pumps and that would tern on the sprinklers. This lady didn’t want to leave. We were able to encourage her finally ... I guess the sheriff and a liaison officer talked to her.”

As the person in charge of the squad he worked with, Thaine said he also talked to the woman about leaving.

“She finally did. She had a friend there helping her and they left about an hour after we did,” he said.

Thaine said he and the New York team gathered at Saratoga to begin the trip west. They went by bus to Harrisburg, Pa., and stayed overnight there.

“(Harrisburg was) one of the mobilization points for eastern crews to fly out. This particular time, we had a crew from West Virginia and a crew from Ohio. We flew out of the Harrisburg airport on charter jets. In St. Louis, we picked up two crews from Missouri. Those are all 20-person crews,” he said. “We landed at Missoula. We didn’t all go to the same fire. They outfit you with rental vehicles to travel to the fire and to use at the fire to get around, to get from the camp to the spot we were working for that day. The West Va. crew was at the same fire but I believe the other crews went to different fires in the area.”