LANSING (AP) – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has sent 18 people to help fight a fast-moving fire that has burned more than 9,500 acres in western Montana, officials said Thursday.

The crew includes fire officers, foresters and one surveyor.

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“Our staff has been highly trained to handle situations like this and are ready to go whenever and wherever they’re needed,” said Bill O’Neill, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “Cooperative efforts between counties, states and countries are crucial during emergency situations like these. Our thoughts are with those who are out on the line fighting this blaze and the others that are burning out west.”

About 50 large, uncontained fires are burning around the nation.

O’Neill said the Michigan DNR is well-equipped to deal with any wildfires that might break out in Michigan, even with some of its staffers dispatched elsewhere.

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“The opportunity to assist other states and federal agencies allows DNR staff to improve our skills and maintain high-level qualifications,” O’Neill said. “The skills our men and women pick up when they’re out of state are brought back and utilized when they are managing fires here at home.”

The time has come – and will come again – when the help comes the other way, he said.

Michigan drew considerable out-of-state firefighting help to battle the 28-square-mile Sleeper Lake Fire in 2007 and the 31-square-mile Duck Lake Fire in 2012, O’Neill said.

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