Lake Ozark Strike Team

Volunteers help put out wildfires at Lake of the Ozarks

April 7, 2011 NOTE: The Lake Ozark Strike Team no longer exists

Thick gray smoke rose high above the fire, forming a cloud much like an angry spring thunderhead. Below the smoke, the fire raced up and out of a drainage, destroying everything in its path. The wind drove the fire into a frenzy. Fire devils did an eerie dance along the flame front, shooting burning embers well ahead of the fire's path.

The Lake Ozark Strike Team worked feverishly to control this untamed beast. Cutting a fireline well ahead of the fire, the team, armed with blowers and rakes, struggled through briars and sprouts. Choking, thick smoke made it hard to breathe and see.

With burning, watery eyes they knew they must keep going or the fire would win. Finally the wind died down and changed direction - just the break they needed. The strike team members happily gulped in some fresh air and doubled their efforts, burning out their fireline as they built it.

At long last they met up with the Missouri Department of Conservation tractor plow unit. Now a fireline completely surrounded the fire. They had trapped the beast and it soon died. The strike team had no time to celebrate their victory; another fire came to life some 10 miles away. They loaded their equipment and left to battle another beast.

The Lake Ozark Strike Team is a group of volunteers dedicated to wildfire suppression and prevention. The team is composed of a housewife, an engineer, a sheriff's deputy, retirees, high school students, boat manufacturers and rural fire department members. When they are not at work, at school, at home or helping their fire departments, you can find them down at the Lake Ozark Forestry Office in Lebanon, working on their fire equipment.

"The Strike Team works together as a group, not as individuals. That's what makes the team work," says strike team member Bob Hurd. "We change crew leaders each month so everyone has the opportunity to find out what it is like to lead the crew." Bob has been a strike team member since the beginning. "At first we didn't get much respect from some of the rural fire departments until they saw us work. After that they knew they could depend on us to get the job done."

On July 15, 1991, Jack Glendenning, a retired Lake Ozark forestry district resource