California to activate National Guard to help reduce wildfire risk

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has put together a list of 35 projects around the state where they intend to reduce the wildfire risk for residents. This follows multiple large fire disasters in 2017 and 2018 that killed over 100 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. In many areas those not directly affected by the flames were exposed to hazardous levels of smoke for days or weeks at a time.

The State will establish incident bases in proximity to vulnerable communities and coordinate fuels treatment operations from those facilities utilizing the Incident Command System. The Governor will activate the National Guard to help complete the work.

The projects, identified and planned at the local level, are intended to reduce the public safety risk for over 200 communities. Examples of work to be done include removal of hazardous dead trees, vegetation clearing, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and establishment of ingress and egress corridors. CAL FIRE believes these projects can be implemented immediately if their recommendations are taken to enable the work.

Recognizing that entry level employees in California are not highly compensated, and often have challenges finding affordable housing in areas where they work, the state will provide additional government housing for seasonal state employees working on forest management and fuels reduction.

In addition to large-scale fuel reduction projects near communities, CAL FIRE understands that residents have to also do their part to reduce the flammable material in their home ignition zone within 100 feet of structures, and especially immediately adjacent — within 5 feet.

Details on the projects can be found online at CAL FIRE expects to keep the list updated.

Priority Landscapes wildfire protection
(Click to see a larger version)

The entire 28-page report about this new initiative can be found here.

National Guard promotes their firefighting activity

The National Guard has released another video promoting the assistance they provided to the firefighting efforts in California. Earlier this morning they Tweeted about still another video that featured their helicopters and MAFFS air tankers, but within a couple of hours it became inaccessible, marked “private”. Maybe it was pulled because every time it showed a MAFFS air tanker dropping water, undoubtedly filmed during pre-season training, it was described as dropping retardant.

California: Spread of July Complex slowed by inversions

Whites fire
Falling operation on the Whites Fire. Photo by D. Gingrich.

Inversions have slowed the spread of the Log and Whites Fires in northwest California. The July Complex was made up 26 fires, now these two large fires are receiving the most attention from the incident management team led by Jerry McGowan. The fires were the result of 955 lightning strikes in Siskiyou County on July 29.

About 780 residences are threatened by the fires which are being fought by 1,910 personnel with 100 engines, 30 dozers, and 58 hand crews. Combined, the two fires have burned over 30,000 acres.

Evacuation orders are in effect for the communities of Sawyers Bar, Eddy Gulch, Little North Fork, Idlewild, Mule Bridge, Robinson Flat and Whites Gulch.

Ca NG members on Log Fire CNG photo
Members of the California National Guard are assigned to the Log Fire, part of the July Complex. CNG photo.
California National Guard construct fire line
Members of the California National Guard construct fire line on the Log Fire. California National Guard photo.

There oughta be a law

National Guard open truck hauling firefighters
California National Guard open truck hauling firefighters on State Highway 3 through Yreka, California, at 6:45 p.m. PDT, August 13, 2014.

(UPDATE: we received a response from the California National Guard. Scroll down.)

I can’t believe we are still hauling wildland firefighters in the open backs of California National Guard cargo trucks. If the truck rolls, all of the firefighters will be ejected, and the truck may roll over on them.

I observed four California National Guard trucks like this one traveling down State Highway 3 in Yreka, California all loaded with firefighters in the back on August 13, 2014, between 6:40 and 6:45 p.m. PDT. They were heading toward the staging area at the fairgrounds.

Can this still be legal in 2014? The U.S. Forest Service did this in the 1970s, not knowing better, but in the 21st Century, this is Third World Country crap.

National Guard open trucks
California National Guard open trucks at the fairgrounds staging area in Yreka, California, August 13, 2014. Some of these hauled firefighters in the back.

Military trucks do roll over. We found a GAO report about one of the predecessors of the truck seen in the photo, the M939 five ton truck, which had a much higher accident and fatality rate than other military vehicles, including the 2.5 ton truck. Between 1987 and 1998 there were 320 accidents in which the truck rolled over, killing 62 people.

In 1998 a newer version of the 2.5 ton truck was restricted to 30 mph because of its record of rolling over.

While it may save money to use cargo trucks to carry firefighters, that is not sufficient justification for putting them in the back of an open truck traveling on highways and narrow dirt roads that lead into forest fires.


We sent a Tweet to the California National Guard, asking about this, and received this reply:

Neither a strap or a tarp are going to provide much rollover protection.