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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)