For the first time in two years, active duty soldiers have been mobilized to fight wildfires in the West. Two hundred military personnel are heading to battle the Umpqua North Complex. The 47-square mile wildfire is burning in the southwest corner of Oregon.
Jennifer Jones with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise says soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been called in because resources are stretched very thin.
“We’ve got more than 80 large wildfires burning on about 1.4 million acres in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming," says Jones. "And we currently have about 28,000 firefighters and support personnel already working on them.”
Some of those states have already called in their National Guard, including in Montana and California. The National Preparedness level remains at 5, which means significant new wildfires are likely.
Jones says wildfire activity usually begins to taper out in early September. But not this year.
“It’s very unusual for this time in September for us to have this many fires burning across such a large area, and really with no relief in sight. We’re still expecting to have above average potential for September and even into October in some areas.”
Idaho is under a rare statewide air quality advisory through Thursday morning as smoke from within the state – and elsewhere – coats the region with a thick layer of haze. This also means there’s a ban on all man-made fires, including campfires.
She says now is the time for people to be on their highest alert for potential sparks. Jones says without snow or rain in the forecast, wildfire danger remains extremely high around the West.
Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill
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