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U.S. military deployed to help fight wildfires in West

By Danielle Haynes
U.S. military deployed to help fight wildfires in West
Firefighters watch the Rocky Fire move up a ridge Aug. 3 along Highway 120 in Lake County just outside Lower Lake, Calif. Some 200 military personnel have been deployed to assist fighting wildfires in the western U.S. Photo by Al Golub/UPI | License Photo

BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Some 200 active duty military members are being deployed to help battle dozens of wildfires burning throughout the western United States, fire officials said Monday.

The Department of Defense approved a request to send personnel from the 17th Field Artillery Brigage, 7th Infantry Division, Army from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington to battle the blazes. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said it's the first time the military has assisted wildfire suppression efforts since 2006.

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It's not clear which wildfire the soldiers will be sent to -- there are 96 currently burning through about 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada and Colorado.

"We are committed to continuing to do everything we can to provide the firefighters, aircraft, engines, and other wildfire suppression assets that Incident Commanders need to protect lives, property, and valuable natural and cultural resources to suppress the most challenging wildfires we've experienced in several years," said Aitor Bidaburu, chair of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at NIFC.

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"The U.S. military has been a key partner in wildland firefighting for decades and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with soldiers to serve as firefighters as well as C-130s equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems to serve as large air tankers to help with wildfire suppression efforts."

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The soldiers are scheduled to undergo training at their base in Washington before Sunday, when they are expected to begin working on a wildfire. The last time active duty military personnel were mobilized to fight wildfires was in 2006 at the Tripod Complex Fires in Washington.

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