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200 US Army soldiers deployed to help fight wildfires

| August 28, 2020 11:45 AM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center say about 200 active duty U.S. Army soldiers are being mobilized to help fight wildfires across the western United States.

It's the first active duty mobilization for wildfire support since 2018. More than 5900 square miles (15280 square kilometers) have burned so far this year, and 105 large wildfires are burning across the western United States.

The soldiers will be trained over the next week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington and are expected to begin firefighting on hand crews in early September.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group asked the Department of Defense to provide the soldiers. Four military C-130 air tankers equipped with firefighting gear are also being used to fight fires in California.

It's not uncommon for national fire managers to request help from the military. Active duty military members have been deployed as wildland firefighters 38 times in the past 33 years, according to NIFC.