200 active duty troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to deploy to Umpqua North Complex
ROSEBURG, Ore. - The nation's wildland fire managers have called up 200 active duty troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to train as firefighters and deploy to the Umpqua North Complex east of Roseburg.
The soldiers from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team begin training Wednesday.
The troops are expected to complete training Saturday and begin work the next day, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
They will join three groups of Oregon National Guard troops trained to fight wildfires and sent to fires threatening communities in southwest Oregon. The third group deployed Tuesday to the Horse Prairie Fire in Douglas County.
Also on Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown announced she approved a plan to activate another 250 Oregon National Guard to fight the fires. That comes in addition to the 400 Guard already fighting fires in Oregon.
Thousands of wildland firefighters from public agency and private contractors are working the 20 large uncontained fires burning in Oregon - more than a third of the 57 large fires now burning in the U.S.
The nation's firefighting resources are deployed where needed around the country by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
NIFC uses a National Preparedness Level scale from 1 to 5 to describe the nation's situation.
At Level 1, few fires are burning and firefighting resources - firefighters, aircraft, overhead and support teams - are available.
The nation moved to Level 5 in early August, meaning most firefighting resources are committed to existing fires - and few reinforcements remain for existing fires or new starts.
Moving to Level 5 opened the door to requesting help from the military and abroad.
The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at NIFC requested the troops from the Department of Defense. The request was approved.
“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,” said Dan Buckley, Chair of NMAC. “The U.S. military is a key partner in wildland firefighting and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with Soldiers to serve as firefighters as well as aircraft to help with wildfire suppression efforts.”
Three C-130s have already been deployed as large airtankers and are operating from Fresno, California.
Two military RC-26 aircraft are currently mobilized to help detect and map wildfires in the western states. Those planes are now operating from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington and Redding Municipal Airport in Redding, California. When first called into fire service, the planes initially worked out of Spokane and Eugene.
Active duty military personnel have mobilized to fight wildfires 36 times in the last 30 years. Most recently, 200 troops from Lewis-McChord fought fires in Washington state in 2015.
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