Micah Bell, a Fire Prevention Technician for the National Parks Services, gets a good feeling from teaching kids about preventing wildfires. But he says the most rewarding part of his job is getting kids to understand why it’s so important that he does start fires.
Bell and his staff of experienced firefighters set controlled fires every year in the parks. They use statistical data and weather trends to accurately predict the “danger zones”, or pockets of forest that are most susceptible to wildfire that year, to safely burn away the risk of an uncontrolled ignition.
“We burn to mimic Mother Nature, and to prevent the spread of wildfire and invasive species,” Bell said.
And these burns don’t just save forests and wildlife, they save lives. In 2014, a spark from a train ignited an area of forest near Ogden Dunes that could have spread to the town itself had Bell and his team not been able to accurately predict that area as a danger zone and safely burn the area beforehand.
“That’s one of many times our burns have paid off,” Bell added. “We analyze data regularly and were able to use historical data to predict that one.”
But Micah does more for the community than just preventing wildfires and educating the public about controlled burns, he co-founded the Porter County Search and Rescue Team and helps to aid park employees in learning first aid and CPR; two essential skills for working in an environment where it may take some time for EMTs to arrive.
“Depending on where folks are in the park, they can be off the beaten path,” Bell said. “We want to make sure our employees can help.”
And when Bell is not out in the parks saving lives, or teaching others how to do the same, he is in schools and classrooms educating kids about the importance of controlled burns and how they can do their part to preserve the parks in Northwest Indiana for future generations to come.
Bell has dedicated the last 15 years of his life to the NPS and to helping others live safer and more enjoyable lives in NWI. For that, Bell’s accomplishments in life truly deserve the spotlight.