Scout awarded for preventing large-scale blaze in forest

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 31, 2015


Despite what his father, Michael, said, Troy resident Dane Howlett, then 13, knew that the ground fire they came upon in Michigan’s Au Sable State Forest in April was not something they could put out themselves.

Dane is a Boy Scout with Troop 1034, and his father, Michael, is scoutmaster. Dane attends Seaholm High School.

While riding their dirt bikes on the Kalkaska Central Trail loop near where the family owns a resort, they came upon a small ground fire about 10 feet in diameter on the trail. Michael tried to put the fire out, but they noticed the fire was spreading very rapidly.

“It was going really fast,” Dane said. “It was pretty windy out.”

So he left his dad and rode his dirt bike four miles through narrow, hilly terrain back to the family resort to call for help while his father stayed behind to keep an eye on the blaze.

“I was going really fast. I needed to get the authorities. After we called them, I waited at the crossroads to explain where it was.  It’s a long trail,” Dane said.

“He came in riding super fast,” said Joyce Howlett, his mother. “He said, ‘Mom call 911. There’s a fire out of control.’ I proceeded to call and stayed on the line with 911. Dane jumped back on the bike to direct them back in there. It was quite a ways.”

His uncle followed the teen in a truck.

Michael explained that they were climbing up a hill in the woods on the bikes when they saw the blaze.

“It was all on the ground,” Michael said. “Dane said, ‘We can’t get this out. We’ve got to go call somebody.’ It’s quite a trail. The fire department needed someone to show them where it was.”

Dane met the first responders on a seasonal road.

“It went from a small fire to a big fire (50 feet) real fast,” Michael said.

The fire department used an airplane to spot the fire and bulldozers to contain it.

When the Howletts went to the site of the fire the next day, they discovered that 20 acres had burned.

“There was a lot of debris in the ground, and April 18, the day of the fire, it was a fairly windy day,” Michael said, noting that authorities said the fire would have been much worse if the Howletts hadn’t spotted it and taken the steps they did.

The Howletts nominated Dane for the Boy Scout Medal of Merit award, which he received Nov. 2.

Michael said his son had to explain to a Scout council what he did,  and they also showed video they had shot the day after the fire.

Kerrie Mitchell, public relations director for the Boy Scouts of America Michigan Crossroads Council, explained in a prepared statement that “the Medal of Merit is a very prestigious award. It is awarded to a youth member or adult leader who has performed an act of service of a rare or exceptional character that reflects an uncommon degree of concern for the wellbeing of others, according to the official guidelines.”

“We’re very proud,” Joyce said. “He saw what needed to be done.”