For the first time since 2006, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho is mobilizing active duty military personnel to serve as firefighters to assist with wildfire suppression efforts. Currently, approximately 95 large wildfires are burning about 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington,Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, and Colorado. The National Preparedness Level is currently at 5, the highest level, indicating a high level of wildfire activity and a high level of commitment of available wildfire suppression assets, such as firefighters, aircraft, and engines. Weather and fuel conditions are predicted to continue to be conducive to wildfire ignitions and spread for the next several weeks.
The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at NIFC requested the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide 200 active duty military personnel to assist with firefighting efforts. The DOD has approved the request and identified the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, Army located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington to provide the active duty military personnel. The Soldiers will be organized into ten crews of 20 persons each, all of which will be sent to the same wildfire, which is in the process of being identified.
“We are committed to continuing to do everything we can to provide the firefighters, aircraft, engines, and other wildfire suppression assets that Incident Commanders need to protect lives, property,and valuable natural and cultural resources to suppress the most challenging wildfires we’ve experienced in several years,” said Aitor Bidaburu, Chair of NMAC. “The U.S. military has been a key partner in wildland firefighting for decades and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with Soldiers to serve as firefighters as well as C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) to serve as large air tankers to help with wildfire suppression efforts.”Along the same lines as above, here is an article from the AirForce Times reporting on NIFC's mobilization of military troops to help fight wildfires, and Bill Gabbert writes about this mobilization in one of his August 17th articles on Wildfire Today.
Washington, Oregon, and California have activated State National Guard units to help fight wildfires in their state:
- California National Guard activated (August 18th)
- Washington National Guard activated recently
- The Oregon National Guard was activated earlier this month to help fight wildfires (go here), I think but am not sure that they are still activated and fighting wildfires in Oregon (see this August 17th report from the Oregon Department of Forestry on the Eldorado Fire)
- An article from the NationalGuard reports on National Guard units helping in California, Oregon, and Washington earlier this month. Most of the article focuses on California, but they discuss the Guard's work in Oregon, Washington, and Nevada at the end of the article.
I understand the the NJ Forest Fire Service has sent a crew of 32 NJFFS firefighters and a three trucks out west, for more information see the article from the NJ Herald.
I close by sharing a video report (August 14th) with some footage of a helo and a CL-415 working the Chelan Complex in Washington. I'll get to that in a moment. As of the time I write this article, the Chelan Complex of wildfires has burned 63,425 acres and is at 30 percent containment. Here is the latest inci web update for the Chelan Complex (may have different information than what is here). Note that at the time that I am accessing inci web the site is running slow. You might also be interested in this August 18th report from ABC News and Bill Gabbert's reports on the Chelan Complex of fires. The video is from GoLakeChelan.com and the embed code is disabled, but I hope that you watch this video: Reach Complex fires in the Lake Chelan Valley August 14, 2015 from GoLakeChelan.com on Vimeo. I had to fuss a bit with some settings for one of my Firefox browser add-ons before the video played in Firefox. But it worked without incident in Chrome and Safari.