1st-of-a-kind CA military firefighting strike team will soon be deployed to battle wildfires

"This program is going to put five fire engines and 20 soldier firefighters out on the front lines."

J.R. Stone Image
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Military firefighting strike team to be deployed to battle CA fires
A team of military personnel will soon be ready for deployment to help fight wildfires across California.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's being called the nation's first. A California military firefighting strike team that will soon help battle wildfires and they'll do so inside state fire engines.

A team of military personnel will soon be ready for deployment to help fight fires across the state.

Images of their new vehicles may make it look like they're in big pick up trucks, but they are actually four-wheel drive fire engines that carry 300 gallons of water each. They will soon have military personnel in them, ready to fight wildfires in California.

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"This program is going to put five fire engines and 20 soldier firefighters out on the front lines," said Brian Marshall, who is fire chief of California's Office of Emergency Services.

It's called a strike team, which you may have heard of. But what's new here is the partnership. You have state fire engines, but with California State Guard men and women inside those vehicles. It is said to be a first of it's kind in the nation. The goal here is to help better contain fires.

"From my perspective, this new agreement is important because it just means there's more units that can get to fires faster," says Chris Field who is a scientist and researcher.

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He's also the director at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. He has written extensively about fighting fires and while he is optimistic, he believes we need to do better in all areas, fighting fires, fire prevention and funding those methods.

"We are still struggling to make the level of investment that is going to be necessary to get ahead of the problem, on a time table that really works for folks," says Field.

Chief Marshall says the five trucks and 20 military individuals will respond to fires together and go into areas where bigger engines are unable to go. But even then there will be challenges.

"What you saw in Northern California over the last several weeks was a series of lightning fires that occurred, and during these lightning thunderstorm type events you end up with high winds, and you end up with a fire that starts with a lightning strike and burns 20,000 acres in just a few hours," said Chief Marshall.

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But new state engines equipped with these military crews is something additional that we didn't have in the past. Field believes we're on the right path.

"This summer, we have seem some catastrophic fires but the total area that has been burned is not as bad as it's been in the last few years and I'm optimistic that we are beginning to see some of the results of the investments made," said Field.

As to when we'll see this strike team in action, Chief Marshall says the trucks were delivered Tuesday.

Crews are now training and the goal is for them to be ready for fire deployment before the summer is over and that comes in just over a month.

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