Extreme mopup

The U.S. Forest Service distributed this photo on Twitter September 17 that shows at least 90 Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers during a firefighting training exercise at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem, Oregon, August 28, 2017.

Nearly 125 Citizen-Soldiers from the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team volunteered to join the second iteration of personnel, also known as NG-2, activated by Governor Kate Brown to assist with wildfires across the state of Oregon. The Oregon National Guard is currently assigned to three  fires in central and southern Oregon; the Whitewater, High Cascades Complex, and Chetco Bar fires. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class April Davis, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

In addition to the National Guard, 200 members of the active duty military were activated from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington earlier this month. Initially they were assigned to the Umpqua North Complex of fires 50 miles east of Roseburg, Oregon.

Military mobilized to help fight wildfires

Above: Personal Protective Equipment is distributed to soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in preparation for deployment to the Umpqua North Fire in Oregon.

(Originally published at 7:53 a.m. MDT September 7r, 2017)

With the National Preparedness Level at 5, the highest level, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho has mobilized active duty military personnel to serve as firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at NIFC requested the Department of Defense to provide 200 active duty military personnel to assist with firefighting efforts. The DoD has approved the request and identified the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion and 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment), 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington to provide the active duty military personnel. The Soldiers will be organized into ten crews of 20 persons each, all of which will be sent to the Umpqua North Complex which is burning on approximately 30,000 acres on the Umpqua National Forest, approximately 50 miles east of Roseburg, Oregon.

“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 Buckley, Chair of NMAC. “The U.S. military is a key partner in wildland firefighting and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with Soldiers to serve as firefighters as well as aircraft to help with wildfire suppression efforts.”

Their training, which began September 6, is expected to conclude by September 9th, and the Soldiers are expected to begin working on a wildfire on September 10th. While on a wildfire, the Soldiers will be accompanied by experienced wildland fire strike team leaders and crew bosses from wildland fire management agencies.

The training will consist of one day of classroom training at JBLM and two days of field training when the Soldiers reach the wildfire that they will be assigned to.

The last time that active duty military personnel were mobilized to serve as wildland firefighters was in August, 2015 when 200 soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade based out of JBLM were mobilized to work on wildfires in Washington for 30 days. The last time before that was in 2006. Currently, several states – including Oregon, Montana, and Washington – have mobilized National Guard helicopters and personnel to serve as wildland firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts.

army soldiers Onata Fire
File photo. Part of the Army’s assignment on the Onata Fire in 2015 was to assist putting in a hose lay as part of preparation for a planned burnout. Robert “Hippie” Horn (left) of North Dakota Forest Service hands rolls of hose to soldiers to distribute along a road. Photo by Tom Story,  August, 2015.

200 active duty military personnel mobilized to fight wildfires

National Guard In Cargo Truck
File photo of firefighters being hauled in a California National Guard truck in Yreka, California, August 14, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

For the first time since 2006, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho is mobilizing active duty military personnel to serve as firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts. Currently, approximately 95 large wildfires are burning about 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, and Colorado.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at NIFC requested the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide 200 active duty military personnel to assist with firefighting efforts. The DOD has approved the request and identified the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, Army located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington to provide the active duty military personnel. The Soldiers will be organized into ten crews of 20 persons each, all of which will be sent to the same wildfire, which is in the process of being identified.

“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 to suppress the most challenging wildfires we’ve experienced in several years,” said Aitor Bidaburu, Chair of NMAC. “The U.S. military has been a key partner in wildland firefighting for decades and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with Soldiers to serve as firefighters as well as C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) to serve as large air tankers to help with wildfire suppression efforts.”

The Soldiers will be trained by wildland fire agency personnel, including the Bureau of Land Management Vegas Valley Crew comprised entirely of military veterans, at JBLM beginning this Wednesday, August 19th. The training is expected to conclude by Saturday, August 22nd, and the Soldiers are expected to begin working on a wildfire on Sunday, August 23rd.

The training will consist of one day of classroom training at JBLM and one to two days of field training at the wildfire that the Soldiers will be assigned to.

Since 1987, active duty military personnel have been mobilized to serve as wildland firefighters a total of 35 times. The last time was in 2006 when a battalion from JBLM was mobilized to work on the Tripod Complex Fires on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington.  Currently, several states – including California, Washington, and Oregon – have mobilized National Guard personnel to serve as wildland firefighters and helicopters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts. For example, 100 soldiers from the Washington National Guard who previously received wildland firefighter training, began working on the Reach Fire at Chelan, Washington on August 17.