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.

Maps of wildfires in the Northwest U.S.

More than 27,000 firefighters are deployed on wildfires in the United States.

(Originally published at 10:35 a.m. MDT September 6, 2107)

Large wildfires Washington Oregon northern California
Large wildfires currently active in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.

These maps show the locations of large wildfires that are currently active in the Northwest United States. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.

large wildfires map idaho montana
Large wildfires currently active in Idaho and Montana. The red, yellow, and orange dots represent heat detected by a satellite in the 24 hour period ending at 10 a.m. MDT September 6.

According to the National Interagency Coordination Center, today there are 50 large uncontained wildfires in the United States that are being aggressively suppressed. In addition, there are another 35 fires that are not being fully suppressed.

Very large numbers of firefighting resources are currently assigned across the United States, including 560 hand crews, 1,865 engines, and 222 helicopters, for a total of 27,256 personnel.

As of yesterday 7.9 million acres has burned this year nationally, which compares to the 10-year average of 5.4 million acres for this date.

The video below shows heat and smoke in Idaho and Montana detected by a satellite on September 3 and 4, 2017.

Diamond Creek Fire burns into Canada

Above: The image shows heat detected by a satellite August 31 and September 1, 2017. The red dots are the most recent, early Friday morning.

The Diamond Creek Fire in the Pasayten Wilderness in the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest has crossed the Washington/British Columbia border and spread three miles into Canada. The Incident Management Team reports the total size of the fire is over 52,000 acres.

Satellite photo, wildfires in the Northwest U.S.

Click on the photo a couple of times to see a larger version.

Two wildfires in Washington were very active Tuesday

The Diamond Creek Fire burned across the international border into Canada Tuesday.

Above: Satellite photo showing smoke from fires in the Northwest United States August 29, 2017. The red dots represent heat detected at 3:56 a.m. PDT August 30, 2017.

(Originally published at 8:30 a.m. PDT August 30, 2017)

The Diamond Creek and Norse Peak Fires in Washington were very active Tuesday.

The Diamond Creek Fire in northern Washington that has been burning for five weeks spread across the border into Canada Tuesday. A spokesperson for the fire, Connie Mehmal, said it added another 16,000 acres to bring the size up to almost 49,000 acres, but heavy smoke on the north side in Canada prevented accurate mapping. The fire is not being completely suppressed, but special emphasis is directed toward protecting structures, including the community of Mazama on the south side.

Assigned to the fire are 3 helicopters and 3 fire engines for a total of 53 personnel, Ms. Mehmal said.

Diamond Creek Road
Firefighters on the Diamond Creek Fire chip debris along Ortell Creek Road, August 27, 2017.

The Norse Peak Fire on the north side of Highway 410 northeast of Mount Rainier National Park grew by more than 9,000 acres Tuesday and has now burned 12,904 acres. Most of the spread was on the north side, pushed by a strong wind out of the south. The fire behavior on Monday and Tuesday was described as “plume dominated” and “extreme running, group torching, and short-range spotting”.

Norse Peak Jolly Mountain fires
Norse Peak and Jolly Mountain Fires, showing heat detected as late as 3:56 a.m. PDT August 30, 2017. The red areas are the most recent.

The strategy on the Norse Peak fire is not to completely suppress it, but to herd it around as necessary to protect private property and structures.