The U.S. Army is deploying 200 troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to help fight wildfires raging across the Western states.
Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Robert Manning III announced on Aug. 6, that the 200 soldiers would be split into 10 teams of 20 and assigned to fight a single fire.
The army is already pitching in to fight fires in California, Col. Manning told the press. “Currently, four military C-130 [Hercules aircraft] equipped with modular airborne firefighting systems are serving as large air tankers and are operating from Sacramento’s McClellan Airport in California,” he announced.
Amazing photos taken yesterday over the #CarrFire and at #Redding Airport. The 146th Airlift Wing, @USNationalGuard, assists fighting the #California wildfires with two MAFFS-equipped C-130s. #GoGuard! pic.twitter.com/aEnVTU4T3k
— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) August 4, 2018
He added that an RC-26 Metroliner aircraft based in Spokane, Washington, was helping the Forest Service to detect and monitor wildfires in the Western states.
The troops will be trained and deployed to assist civilian firefighters at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.
Already, thousands of National Guardsmen are actively assisting in fire-fighting efforts in several states, including Oregon, California, and Washington.
Unusual Amount of Wildfire Activity
The NIFC reported that more than 134 wildfires were actively burning on some 1.6 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and Alaska.
“Weather and fuel conditions are predicted to continue being conducive to wildfire ignitions and spread in most of the western U.S. for the next several weeks,” the Center stated in an Aug. 6 press release.
“We are committed to continuing to do everything we can to provide the firefighters, aircraft, engines, and other wildfire suppression assets that Incident Commanders need to protect lives, property, and valuable natural and cultural resources,” said Dan Smith, Chair of National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at NIFC.
In the release, NIFC explained that the soldiers would be outfitted with wildland fire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and whatever other gear they might need to serve as wildland firefighters. On the ground, they would be supervised directly by experience civilian wildland firefighting strike-team leaders.
Further, the soldiers would receive an intensive, three-day training program while at their base near Tacoma, Washington. Much of the training will focus on firefighter safety, and how to be aware of developing dangerous situations.
According to NIFC, troops are expected to be on the ground and fighting a fire by Monday, Aug. 13.
NIFC notes that the Army has been an important partner in wildfire containment for decades, providing both personnel and equipment.
Since 1987, U.S. Army personnel have been trained and deployed as firefighters 37 times. The latest instance was in Sept. 2017, when 200 soldiers were called out to assist with the North Umpqua Complex wildfires in Oregon.
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