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Wildland Fire Fighting Support

Thursday June 5, 2014

What is it?

The U.S. Army has supported the fighting of wildland fires since the inception of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in 1965.

Army support is only requested when civilian resources are fully committed. The decision to request military support rests with the National Multi-Agency Coordinating (NMAC) Group at in Boise, Idaho. The main areas of support provided by frequency are the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS), Rotary wing support, Initial Assessment and Awareness (IAA), and ground forces.

Military resources for ground firefighting are normally requested in company plus strength (ten crews consisting of 20 Soldiers/Marines) and their command element.

NIFC synchronizes the National Strategy and resources incidents for wildfire management. Members of NIFC include the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), FEMA, the National Association of State Foresters, the National Weather Service (NWS), the USDA Forest Service, (USFS) and Department of Defense.

For the past ten years (2003-2013), an average of 74,918 wildland fires across the U.S. destroyed on average over 7.3 million acres and cost the U.S. taxpayer approximately $1.5 billion each year. The majority (approximately 75 percent) are handled at the State or Tribal level; whereas NIFC utilizes resources with the remaining 25 percent.

What has the Army done?

U.S. Army North (ARNORTH) has ten Defense Coordinating Elements (DCEs) pre-positioned in continental United States (CONUS) to facilitate Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA). DCEs validate resource requests from the lead federal agency. All available MAFFS aircraft were activated during the 2013 fire season. They flew 576 wildland fire sorties across the western U.S. and dropped 1,387,881 gallons of retardant.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

The focus of the Army is to provide timely support to NIFC. The Army and NIFC jointly sponsor a WFF conference at the beginning and end of each WFF season to identify any issues and develop preparatory actions for the next season.

Why is this important to the Army?

Wildland fires know no boundaries and impact millions of Americans yearly. The exhaustion of civilian resources is the catalyst for the Army to provide support when and where needed.


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