Military Firefighting Assistance Statement from National Interagency Fire Center

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | August 10, 2006

• Military personnel and equipment are used when national civilian resources are committed to on-going fires or on standby for initial attack and there is the need for further resources. This level of commitment is typically reached when the National Preparedness Level is at 5. NIFC went to Preparedness Level 5 on July 28.

• Military resources are normally requested at the 550-person battalion strength, which is equivalent to 25 20-person crews plus their command and control elements. The battalion is deployed for up to 30 days. Task Force Blaze, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., will be ready to fight fire by August 16th.

• After a day of wildland fire training at the military installation, the battalion deploys to the fire for two more days of hands-on training before receiving their regular firefighting assignments. Military firefighters stay in the same camp, use the same equipment, eat the same food, and use the same kind of showers as the civilian fire fighters. They become part of the firefighting team.

• The military also supports firefighting efforts through the Military Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) program. This program includes C-130 aircraft from three Air National Guard units and one Air Force Reserve unit serving as airtankers to support wildland fire suppression activities. Four MAFFs are currently flying firefighting missions.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior signed an agreement in 1975 with the Department of Defense to provide firefighting support to the wildland fire management agencies when needed. The decision to request military support rests with the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at NIFC. The military has a liaison officer at NIFC who assists in coordinating the request through U.S. Northern Command.

• In the past decade, the military has provided firefighters and MAFFS support during several critical fire seasons, including 1994, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

• We welcome the military’s help, especially in times when its services and expertise are in high demand. Employing military personnel as firefighters is a good fit for several reasons:

- They are a highly structured organization, used to a chain-of-command system.
- They are mission-oriented.
- They work hard and are in excellent physical condition.
- They understand the importance of maintaining their equipment.