200 U.S. Army soldiers to be mobilized to fight wildfires

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After training, they are expected to be fire-ready by September 3

Soldier training
File photo. Jay Karle, center right, a crew boss assigned to assist Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, points out boundaries to be used during wildland firefighting training near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Aug. 20, 2015. The “First Round” Soldiers were activated to help suppress fires in the Pacific Northwest due to civilian resources running low. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Porch, 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)

Approximately 200 active duty U.S. Army soldiers are being mobilized to assist with wildfire suppression efforts.

The Department of Defense approved the request for the personnel that was submitted by the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group through the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

After receiving training, the soldiers will serve as firefighters.  Above normal fire activity is occurring in northern California, Arizona, and Colorado.

The last use of active duty soldiers for firefighting duty in the United States was in 2018. Wildfire Today has articles about mobilizations in 2008, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

The personnel will be trained in the basics of wildland fire suppression and firefighter safety by wildland fire agency personnel beginning Sunday, August 30 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. The soldiers will be outfitted with wildland fire personal protective equipment and other gear. Training is expected to conclude by Wednesday, September 2, with the soldiers beginning work on a wildfire thereafter. While deployed they will be accompanied by experienced wildland fire strike team leaders and crew bosses from wildland fire management agencies.

In addition to the U.S. Army activation, four military C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) are currently serving as air tankers, providing wildfire support in California.

Military Mobilized wildfires
File photo. Personal Protective Equipment is distributed to soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in preparation for deployment to the Umpqua North Fire in Oregon. September 7, 2017. USFS photo.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

11 thoughts on “200 U.S. Army soldiers to be mobilized to fight wildfires”

  1. Will and be located in northern California? Such as Elkhorn fire or doe fire? The town of paskenta has been able to help feed the crews thus far. We would love to help supply them with daily food supplies if it is wanted.

    1. They will be provided everything they need by the fire camp. I ran National Guard handcrews for 5 years as a retired fire captain.

        1. In addition to the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group working on a request for firefighting assistance from Australia and Canada, California activated the National Guard for help containing the blazes. On August 23 CAL FIRE issued equipment to 270 soldiers as they were beginning basic fire training at Camp Roberts. Another group of 300 soldiers will arrive next week for training. CAL FIRE will embed with each 20-person crew a Captain and two firefighters for supervision.

  2. Why are they bringing in firefighters from Canada, Australia, Israel, and now the miltary, when there are men and women who have been wrongfully terminated under the “Trump Rules”? Why not reinstate us so that we can do our job? There are so many people who have lost their jobs, some are on unemployment, some are not, why not use the local resources, before spending more money bringing in firefighters from other counties? Why not use the local resources, before putting our military at risk? I’m just curious, what other people are thinking especially with the spread of COVID on wildfires. This is just another example of gross mismanagement.

    1. Why doesn’t the army actually send their trained firefighters instead of sending a bunch of random soldiers? Doesn’t make sense to me

      1. Wildland fire training is way different than the firefighter training the military gives their firefighters, that’s why.

    2. Most of the out of country folks are in overhead assignments. The logistics of gathering folks off the street to be medically screened, trained, outfitted And ready to be assigned would take at least a month. Plus they HAVE to be physically fit before any of this starts. It takes months of pre season training to be ready for the rigors of wildland firefighting. Hence the military has some of those pre requisites already completed. I doubt that %5 of the folks off the street that you say need to be hired would ever make it to the actual fireline. As a last thought it takes a certain mindset to be a wildland firefighter, most folks would rather do something else.

    3. Most of the out of country folks are in overhead assignments. The logistics of gathering folks off the street to be medically screened, trained, outfitted And ready to be assigned would take at least a month. Plus they HAVE to be physically fit before any of this starts. It takes months of pre season training to be ready for the rigors of wildland firefighting. Hence the military has some of those pre requisites already completed. I doubt that %5 of the folks off the street that you say need to be hired would ever make it to the actual fireline. As a last thought it takes a certain mindset to be a wildland firefighter, most folks would rather do something else.

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