NIFC moves up to Preparedness Level 5, nationally

preparedness level 5Today at 2 p.m. MDT the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) raised the preparedness level to the maximum of 5, due to large fire and initial attack activity, increasing mobilization, and competition for resources. Significant wildland fire potential is above normal in all or large portions of California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and northwest Montana.

Large destructive fires are currently burning in Southern California, Northern California, Southwest Oregon, and Utah.

Nationally 527 hand crews and a total of 0ver 20,000 personnel are assigned to fires. These are very large numbers that are not reached every year.

“A significant amount of initial and extended attack and large fire activity has occurred over the past several days as a result of lightning storms that have intensified local and geographic response,” said Dan Smith, chair of NMAC. “Given the continuing hot and dry weather and the increase in fire activity in the western U.S., the decision to move to Preparedness Level 5 depicts the complexity that fire managers are encountering to assure that adequate firefighting resources are available for protection of life, property and our nation’s natural resources.”

To date over 4,151,098 million acres of federal, tribal, state, and private land in the United States has burned this year, compared to the ten-year to date average 3,645,013 acres.

Preparedness Level Poll
July 23 Preparedness Level Poll. Wildfire Today.

Earlier this week we conducted a poll, asking our readers which week they thought the Preparedness Level would be raised to 5. The week of July 22 was the sixth most popular answer with 8 percent of the votes.

military firefighters mopup
At least 90 Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers participated in a firefighting training exercise at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in Salem, Oregon, August 28, 2017. Photo distributed by USFS.

During PL-5, further assistance from the military, beyond what is already in use, and international resources may be considered and requested, and agency personnel in other positions may be activated for fire duty, but no decisions have been made concerning those steps. In 2017, 200 soldiers from bases in Washington were assigned to the Umpqua North Complex fires in Oregon for 30 days.

The last time the National Preparedness Level was raised to 5 was August 10, 2017. It remained at PL-5 for 40 days until it was dropped to 4 on September 18, 2017. This is the fourth time that PL-5 has been reached in the last ten years.

Preparedness Level raised to 5, first time since 2008

West Fork 2 Fire
West Fork 2 Fire, now part of the Lolo Creek Complex southwest of Missoula, InciWeb photo

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) raised the national Preparedness Level (PL) to the highest possible today, PL 5. The criteria for PL 5, according to the Mobilization Guide (page 52) is:

Wildland fire or other incidents nationally have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources. Eighty percent (80%) of Type 1 and Type 2 [Initial Attack] crews are committed, as well as the majority of other National Resources. Significant fire potential is likely to remain high in at least three (3) Geographic Areas with no indication of improvement in the next seven (7) days.

Preparedness Levels are based on burning conditions, fire activity, predicted weather and resource availability. They indicate the overall current and expected fire activity on a national or local basis. The levels range from 1 (minimal activity) to 5 (very high activity).

Since 1990 we have been in PL 5 ten times, but the last time was in 2008. PL 5 was reached in 1990, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

The primary reasons for going to PL 5 today were:

  • The high level of current fire activity in Idaho, Oregon and Utah, plus emerging large fires in California and Montana.
  • A weather forecast that calls for the possibility of widespread lightning and hot and dry weather over an extended period.
  • Some shortages of national resources.

The national Situation Report lists 48 uncontained large fires. In some cases the report appears to count each “complex” as one fire, even though complexes consist of multiple individual fires.

Committed today on fires, are 10 Type 1 Incident Management Teams, 21 Type 2 Teams, and 2 NIMO teams.

Five of the eight military MAFFS C-130 air tankers have been activated.