(Washington Army National Guard)
This has been a tough fire season. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, over 9 million acres of land have been burned by fires in 2007 (and counting). More Idaho land was burned this year than in any other state (1,992,148 – California was second with 1,463,239, but led the nation in the number of fires with 8,417). You have seen the images of heroic firefighters trying to contain the blazes and save lives. But did you know that many of them wear military uniforms?
NIFC works closely with NORTHCOM to coordinate military support to civilian agencies. When assistance is needed, NORTHCOM coordinates National Guard and active military deployment. A glance at the NORTHCOM website gives you an idea of the scope of military involvement in the California fires. In recent weeks, each of the services has provided air and ground personnel, and opened military facilities to help in the effort.
Is the military involvement appreciated? Here’s what NIFC said in a statement last year: “We welcome the militaryâ€™s help, especially in times when its services and expertise are in high demand. Employing military personnel as firefighters is a good fit for several reasons:
– They are a highly structured organization, used to a chain-of-command system.
– They are mission-oriented.
– They work hard and are in excellent physical condition.
– They understand the importance of maintaining their equipment.”
The goal is total integration – military firefighters on the ground live, eat, sleep and work shoulder-to-shoulder with their civilian counterparts. Air assets are employed in many different roles, including the deployment of fire retardant as part of the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS).
You don’t hear much about the military/civiliarn team because it works. NORTHCOM has done a remarkable job in coordinating the military’s role in supporting civilian agencies in the five years since it was created.
So here’s to our military personnel fighting fires on American soil. You are our heroes of the week.