Firefighters across the Western United States will receive help from the U.S. Army to fight wildfires.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, for the first time since 2006, soldiers will aid the 30,000 firefighters and support crews battling 1.1 million acres ravaged by wildfires. About 200 soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, Army at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington, split into 10 crews, will attack one of the fires. NPR reports that National Guard troops and four military C-130 cargo planes from McClellan Air Tanker Base in California have already been deployed to fight the blazes.
The fire center in Boise, Idaho, requested the soldiers; a press release from the group mentioned 95 major wildfires in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.
The press release quoted Aitor Bidaburu, chair of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) at NIFC, stating:
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. 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.
In 2006, 550 soldiers from Fort Lewis, Washington, were sent to fight the Tripod Complex Fires at the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington.
More firefighters from New Zealand and Australia may be sent to join the soldiers fighting the fires.