An additional 250 active duty military personnel assigned to fire suppression duty

soldiers mobilized fire
File photo. Members of the Army’s Task Force First Round are briefed on the layout of the Incident Command Post after arriving at the Tower Fire, near Newport, Washington August 22, 2015. The 200 soldiers along with support personnel underwent fire suppression training prior to traveling from their home at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to assist in containing the blaze. The last use of active duty soldiers for firefighting duty in the United States was in 2018. Wildfire Today has articles about mobilizations in 200820152017, and 2018..

At the request of the National Interagency Fire Center and in support of the U.S. Forest Service, approximately 250 Marines and sailors will assist wildland firefighting efforts in Central California. The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC), comprised of state and federal wildland fire managers at NIFC, requested the personnel, along with command and support staff, from the Department of Defense (DOD).

The Marine unit from Camp Pendleton, California will receive wildland firefighting training before assisting with response efforts in Central California.

In late August 200 active duty U.S. Army personnel were mobilized to help battle the blazes.

Wildfire Today has articles about other mobilizations of the military in 200820152017, and 2018.

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

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.

Pentagon says climate change is a growing security threat

Wildfires have the potential to become a concern at seven additional bases where it is not now a serious threat

Canyon Fire entrapment
3-D map of the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base, looking east. The red line was the perimeter of the Canyon Fire at 11 p.m. PDT September 20, 2016. The white line was the perimeter at approximately 11 p.m. September 19.

A report prepared by the Department of Defense in 2019 identified 36 bases where wildfire is currently a concern. Taking climate change into account that number is expected to grow to 43 over the next 20 years.

An analysis required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 studied 79 priority installations based on their operational role. The goal was to assess the significant vulnerabilities from climate-related events in order to identify high risks to mission effectiveness on installations and to operations.

The installations break down by organization as follows:

Military Base Climate Change Study
Department of Defense

In addition to the predicted effects of climate change on wildfire potential, the report also considers recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, and the thawing of permafrost.

The installations that currently are not classified as vulnerable to wildfires but are expected to become so within 20 years are:

  • Key West Naval Air Station, Florida
  • Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor & Hickham, Hawaii
  • Wahiawa Annex, Hawaii
  • Naval Magazine Indian Island, Washington
  • Naval and Submarine Base Bangor, Washington
  • Naval Base Guam

Of the 79 installations that were considered in the study, all that were predicted to develop a new vulnerability to wildfire are Naval Bases. Of the 21 Army bases only 4 are now described as vulnerable to wildfire and no others are identified as becoming vulnerable within 20 years.

Military Base Climate Change Study
A summary from the report of current and future (20 years) vulnerabilities to military installations.

One example of an Air Force Base that is currently vulnerable to wildfires is Vandenberg on the Southern California Coast. Two fires on the base come to mind:

  1. On December 20, 1977, three people were entrapped and killed on the Honda Canyon Fire on the base, including the Base Commander Colonel Joseph Turner, Fire Chief Billy Bell, and Assistant Fire Chief Eugene Cooper. Additionally, severe burns were experienced by Heavy Equipment Operator Clarence McCauley.  He later died due to complications from the burns.
  2. In 2016 the Canyon Fire burned over 12,000 acres on the base. Dozens of firefighters were entrapped and endured a harrowing escape through very thick smoke and flying embers. The Wildland Fire Lessons Learned center produced an excellent explanatory video about the entrapment.

Skidgeon on the Cougar Creek Fire

BLM crew of veterans trains National Guardsmen

Cougar Creek Fire Skidgeon
A Soft Track Skidgeon filling a pumpkin water tank on the Cougar Creek Fire, Okanogan-Wenatchee NF, WA, 2018. Photo: Kari Greer, NIFC. Click to enlarge.

I ran across this photo of a Soft Track Skidgeon, and since it is an interesting machine, I wanted to post it. It was on Flickr along with dozens of other photos from the Bureau of Land Management. That album also had pictures of BLM Crew 7 from Lakeview, comprised almost entirely of veterans, training soldiers from the Washington Army National Guard in 2014. This year the crew  earned Interagency Hotshot Crew status.

National Guard wildfire training
More than 250 soldiers from the Washington Army National Guard, 81st Armored Brigade Combat Team, train with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service at the Yakima Training Center, July 25, 2014. BLM was represented by crew No. 7 from Lakeview, which is comprised of military veterans. Photo by Kevin Abel/BLM.
National Guard wildfire training
More than 250 soldiers from the Washington Army National Guard, 81st Armored Brigade Combat Team, train with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service at the Yakima Training Center, July 25, 2014. BLM was represented by crew No. 7 from Lakeview, which is comprised of military veterans. Photo by Kevin Abel/BLM.

In the video below, the National Guardsmen practice fire shelter deployment. It shows the Guardsmen running and then getting into the shelters. Video by Kevin Abel/BLM.

BLM Oregon firefighters train Washington National Guard

200 soldiers activated to fight wildfires in the West

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at the National Interagency Fire Center has requested that 200 active duty soldiers be activated to help fight the wildfires currently burning in the Western states. The Department of Defense approved the request and will provide personnel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) near Tacoma, Washington. The soldiers will be organized into ten crews of 20-persons each. All of them will be sent to the same wildfire, which is in the process of being identified.

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 have been 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.)

The soldiers will be outfitted with wildland fire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and all of the gear they will need to serve as wildland firefighters. They will be trained by wildland fire agency personnel at JBLM beginning Thursday, August 9. The training is expected to conclude by Sunday, August 12, and the soldiers are expected to begin working on a wildfire on Monday, August 13. While working 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. During classroom training, they will learn about a variety of topics related to wildfire suppression including fire terminology, fire behavior, and fireline safety. During field training, they will receive instruction in fire suppression methods and procedures, including Watch Out Situations and Standard Firefighting Orders, Personal Protective Equipment, and use, transportation and maintenance of wildfire suppression tools.

The U.S. military has been a key partner in wildland firefighting for decades, providing aircraft and personnel to serve as wildland firefighters. Four military C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) are currently mobilized to serve as large airtankers and are operating from the Sacramento McClellan Airport in California. One military RC-26 aircraft is also currently mobilized to augment USDA Forest Service aircraft capability to detect and map wildfires in the western states and is operating from Spokane, Washington.

Since 1987, active duty military personnel have been mobilized to serve as wildland firefighters a total of 37 times. The last time active duty military personnel were mobilized as wildland firefighters was in September, 2017 when 200 soldiers from JBLM were mobilized to work on the North Umpqua Complex of Fires in Oregon for 30 days. Currently, several states – including Oregon, California, and Washington – have mobilized National Guard helicopters, equipment, and personnel to serve as wildland firefighters and assist with a variety of wildfire suppression support efforts.

Last week 138 fireline management personnel from Australia and New Zealand came to the United States to support large fires in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Extreme mopup

Soldiers training firefighting
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.

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.