In another unique way, the Army and the National Guard have come to protect and defend us. They have traded in their ACU's for the Yellow Shirts of the firefighters, their helmets for yellow hardhats. They are helping all of us in a special way.
I took the above picture of the Black Crater Fire an hour after it started. It went on to burn almost 10,000 acres, barely sparing the small town of Sisters, Oregon. It is now part of the Black Crater Complex of fires that have burned almost 20,000 acres. After several weeks, these fires are still burning.
The West has had a terrible year for fire. Much of it has been in wilderness areas, so the MSM doesn't report it. They only report fires when they threaten homes, and once that is resolved, they leave the impression that the fires are out. But, they aren't. The 10 year average for fires is 56,902 fires over 4,508,285 acres. As of today, there have been 78,505 fires over 7,576,076 acres. This has stressed the wildland firefighting resources. When resources are stressed, the Army and the National Guard are called in to help!
A 550-Soldier unit from Fort Lewis, Washington, was deployed August 14 to fight the Tripod Complex fire near Winthrop, Washington. The Tripod Complex fire has burned nearly 200 square miles of forest since it was sparked by lightning in July. It is only 40% contained.
Steve O'Brien, operations officer, points out the similarities of fighting a fire to military operations. "The fire has flanks, and firefighters use trenches, pincer movements and try to outmaneuver and envelop the fire. The ground force is just one side of it - we have engines, helicopter attack and smoke jumpers (air drop firefighters), so it's very similar to a military operation."
John Bruce, from U.S. Army North headquarters, observes, "It is not just throwing water on a fire. The logistics that go into fighting the fire and the planning that is conducted every night for the next day is very intensive. It's as thorough as any war-gaming I've seen in the Army."
This is the first year since 2003 that the fire center has requested a military battalion. Every year, National Guard aircraft are used for air tankers. Since June 2006, National Guard tankers have completed more than 200 retardant drops on wildfires. Currently, Defense assets supporting wildland firefighting are 550 soldiers from Fort Lewis, Washington and 4 Air National Guard C-130's with MAFFS.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns paid a great compliment to the military. "When you call in the military, you get dedication to the mission. It's just outstanding to work with them."
Much gratitude to the Army and the National Guard for protecting us in yet another way! You are all heroes to us! Thank you!!!!!
Photo by Spc. Laura M. Bigenho, 28th Public Affairs Detachment
A bus carrying Soldiers from Fort Lewis, Wash., arrives at Fort Tripod, north of Winthrop, Wash. About 500 Fort Lewis Soldiers are supporting the National Interagency Fire Center in putting out wildfires in the northern Washington region in August 2006.
Photo courtesy 28th Public Affairs Detachment
Photo by Spc. Abel Trevino, 28th Public Affairs Detachment
MAFFS (Military Airborne Firefighting System) - Drop of retardant by an Air National Guard C-130
For more information: NorthCom Wildfire Page