Two hundred soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, will be sent to fight western wildfires next week after brief training, a Pentagon spokesman announced on Monday.
- The soldiers belong to the 14th Engineer Battalion, Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters. They will be broken down into 10 crews – each with 20 soldiers – and they will be sent to combat one of the 134 wildfires now burning across 11 western states. Their final deployment location has not yet been determined.
- “We determined that the forces in that engineer brigade were the best forces for that mission,” Manning said. “These soldiers will be outfitted with wildland fire personal protective equipment and all of the gear that they will need to serve as wildland firefighters. While working on a wildfire, the soldiers will be accompanied by experienced wildland fire strike team leaders and crew bosses from wildland management agencies.”
- The soldiers will start their firefighting training on Thursday at Lewis-McChord and they will begin combating an actual fire four days later on Aug. 13, said Manning, who stressed they will be “fully trained” on the skills they will need.
- The last time active-duty troops fought wildfires on the ground was in September 2017, when 200 soldiers from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team – also from Lewis-McChord – were mobilized as firefighters, he said.