With seven Western states battling devastating wildfires, the National Interagency Fire Center is mobilizing active duty soldiers to aid thousands of firefighters in their suppression efforts.
Troops have not been used to fight wildfires since 2006, according to a news release from authorities, signifying the severity of this problem.
There are approximately 95 large wildfires burning over 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, and Colorado, according to the NIFC’s statement.
The NIFC’s Aitor Bidaburu said in the statement that they are “committed” to suppressing “the most challenging wildfires we’ve experienced in several years.”
The Department of Defense is sending 200 active soldiers from the Army’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord air base in Washington to be trained Wednesday before they combat the massive wildfires Saturday, according to the statement.
CNN reported Monday that 25,000 firefighters are already at work to suppress the flames, having evacuated more than 1,000 people from the affected states. Almost two dozen fires are blazing through Washington state.
“They came quick, they came hot and heavy and then the winds kicked up and it was just unstoppable,” said David D’Armond, a Chelan, Wash., resident, to CNN. D’Armond’s house was saved by authorities, but many residents were not as fortunate.
In Chelan, some 32 homes have been destroyed, authorities told King 5 News, with the number expected to rise to between 50 and 75 structures, commercial and residential. And the phrase “spread like wildfire” was no cliche for residents there.
Norma Cervantes told Fox News 13 that she drove home from work in Chelan thinking “it was a little fire,” but then “it started spreading and spreading and the wind got faster and faster.” She said people couldn’t tell where the fire was heading as the wind shifted one way and then another.
Information from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s Web site InciWeb reports that more than 56,500 acres in Southeast Washington are ablaze. Six helicopters are providing water drops, crew shuttle and reconnaissance, while two other aircraft provide water and retardant drops when needed. Teams from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, State Fire Marshal, and Army National Guard are engaging the fires, according to the NWCG.
Wildfire has overwhelmed more than 20,900 acres of California’s Sierra National Forest, according to the NWCG. The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation notices to people in Black Rock Reservoir, east of Pine Flat Lake on the Sierra National Forest.
The authorities are concerned that strong high pressure over Southern California will bring warmer and drier conditions to the fire. They expect fire could potentially occur toward the Kings River and go east toward the Monarch Wilderness.
The fires burning more than 5,700 acres of land near California’s Whiskey Snowmobile area are 95 percent contained, Cal Fire said Monday night. The fire there continues to cool, but authorities expect some areas may produce smoke for more days.