• 200 Active-Duty Troops Prepare To Become Firefighters As Fires Rage Out Of Control Across 10 Western States

    For the first time in nine years, 200 active-duty troops will be sent to assist civilian firefighters in tackling out of control wildfires raging across the western United States.

    It’s not clear where exactly soldiers from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade of the 7th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington are headed, but it could be any one of 10 states suffering from fires torching thousands of acres, Fox News reports.

    Not even 25,000 firefighters can keep the fires contained. In Washington, 2,359 firefighters are battling 18 major fires.

    Active fires in central Washington near Lake Chelan have driven thousands of residents out of the area and completely destroyed a warehouse of 1.8 million pounds of apples.

    There are currently 96 fires burning in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Montana, Colorado and Nevada, spanning 1.1 million acres. California especially has been hit hard because of a long-standing drought over the past four years. At least 19 fires are raging in the state, but firefighters managed Monday to contain the biggest blaze, which ended up torching 28,401 acres.

    The soldiers will not fight on the front lines. Instead, they’ll be tasked with the “quiet parts of the fire,” which is important because it allows experienced firefighters to shift over to the more dangerous and unstable parts of the wildfire, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

    “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 to serve as large air tankers to help with wildfire suppression efforts,” Aitor Bidaburu, chair of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at NIFC, said in a statement.

    The Washington National Guard has also signed up to fight fires after a request from the Department of Natural Resources.

    Soldiers will receive training Wednesday and ship out Thursday.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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