9/4/2013 4:03 PM
by Karen Franklin
BECKLEY - A veteran Raleigh County firefighter is back at work after battling a large Montana wildfire for days.
Beckley Fire Department Capt. Mike Peck returned to work after serving as a security officer at an incident command post. Peck and his team were in charge of evacuating the public and keeping an eye out for surrounding wildlife.
"It was a lot of Forest Service land with a lot of hunting camps, so hunting season starts in September, and people like to put their deer stands up and start baiting, things like that," Peck said.
He says his biggest threats were black and grizzly bears.
"One of our things we practiced on was actually using bear spray, and we carried it with us everywhere we went," Peck told WOAY. "We also found tracks of bears, and then we also found scat -- bear droppings."
Although the fire grew to 5,000 acres while he was stationed out west, Peck believes the remaining firefighters will have the blaze under control with time. Ten days of walking perimeters at midnight was enough to exhaust a veteran.
"Night shift is very long, and trying to sleep in the daytime -- that's the hard part," he told WOAY. "It's hot. We had tents and the sounds and noise -- trying to get at least three or four hours sleep was pretty hard, then go back to your night shift again."
Peck has traveled to assist in other fires for 20 years now. He said the biggest difference about western fires is the terrain.
His colleague, Robert Donelow, will return to Beckley Thursday.