2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery Soldiers dig a firebreak to contain a controlled burn May 15, 2013, at Fort Sill, Okla. Area fire department personnel instructed Soldiers on basic fire control methods should they be called to fight wild fires anywhere in the nation.

FORT SILL, Okla. (June 6, 2013) -- While most Americans know the famous words of Smokey Bear telling them, "Only you can prevent wildfires," there are still people responsible for ensuring the country is safe from fires, especially during the summer months or seasons of dry weather.

The 214th Fires Brigade is training to be firefighting responders, should the country need them. The brigade is supporting the 4th Infantry Division in Wild Land Fire Fighting (WLFF) operations May 1 to about Oct. 31 to augment local, state and federal wild land firefighting capabilities within the country.

The national fire outlook for 2013, as determined by National Interagency Fire Center, is expected to be significantly higher than normal across most of the Southwest, the southern half of California and portions of Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri and Alabama.

In the United States, there are typically between 60,000 and 80,000 wildfires that occur each year, burning 3 million to 10 million acres of land. Wildfires can cause extensive damage to land, personal property and human life.

No matter when or where it is, the brigade is ready and continuing to train more than 500 Soldiers to deploy to help extinguish blazes as necessary.

2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery has been tasked as the command and control element for fire missions. Leaders from 2-5th FA, 2-4th FA and the 168th Brigade Support Battalion did "train-the-trainer" training May 15. The lead fire instructor from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, along with members from Medicine Park and Fort Sill fire departments, instructed the Soldiers on how to use the proper tools used to fight wildfires.

"Soldiers learned how to cut a fire break and how to contain a fire out here today," said Capt. Joshua Montgomery, 2-5th FA operations officer.

"Training will continue every Wednesday throughout May, June, July and August for every Soldier tasked to this detail. These Soldiers will continue to receive hands-on training by maintaining and/or creating new fire breaks throughout Fort Sill," he said.

If the need arises, these trained Soldiers will receive specialized training from the National Interagency Fire Center and deploy immediately to fight fires.

"The Soldiers of this brigade are agile and capable to accomplish any mission they are given," said Maj. Timothy Diley, brigade operations officer. "We always have maintained the ability to train and deploy to fight and win our nation's wars. This mission provides our Soldiers a unique opportunity to train and deploy within the United States to protect local and national resources by fighting wildfires."

Whether they receive the call to assist or not, the brigade is conducting continual training to include wildfire knowledge, firebreak training and even adjusting their morning physical training with rigor to replicate actual firefighting. They plan to keep everyone's firefighting tactical training top notch. Some of these tactics include training with backpacks containing foam to smother flames, shoveling dirt onto fires and spraying water from hoses to contain the fire and soak surrounding areas, preventing it from spreading.

"The training so far has been well received and the Soldiers are learning a lot from the refuge instructor. They enjoy the hands-on experience instead of just instruction by [computer slides]," said Montgomery.

The National Multi-Agency Coordination Group establishes preparedness levels throughout the calendar year to help assure that firefighting resources are ready to respond to new incidents. Preparedness levels are dictated by burning conditions, fire activity and especially resource availability. The preparedness levels range from one to five, with five being the highest. Each level has specific management directions.

Should the MAC establish a Level 4, meaning that three or more geographic areas are experiencing incidents, then the brigade team moves to a 72-hour recall to prepare for the elevation to Level 5 when they deploy immediately. At each level of preparedness, the brigade has continuous training, rehearsals and meetings with their bags packed and ready to go.

Page last updated Thu June 6th, 2013 at 11:48