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DOD Battles Western Wildfires Amid State of Emergency

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, California Army National Guard conducts annual helicopter bucket training at Irvine Lake, Calif., April 5, 2014, to prepare for wildfire season

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, California Army National Guard conducts annual helicopter bucket training at Irvine Lake, Calif., April 5, 2014, to prepare for wildfire season

On August 4th, from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, U.S. Northern command released a news report on its support for battling wildfires. Today, NORTHCOM officials issued an update on their wildfire efforts, noting that:

Since July 20, DoD aircraft have conducted 76 airdrops and discharged more than 137,000 gallons of fire retardant.

Over the last 24 hours, officials said, DoD aircraft conducted two airdrops and discharged about 5,700 gallons of retardant on the Bald Sisters fire in Oregon. Over the same period, seven airdrops discharged about 11,600 gallons of retardant on the East Mountain fire in Idaho.

The supporting unit flying the MAFFS mission is the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, based in Cheyenne.

The National Guard also issued this release on the Wyoming Air National Guard’s firefighting missions.

The backdrop for all of this support is an intense wildfire season. Gov. Jerry Brown of California has declared a state of emergency for California. As reported by the LA Times, the extensive drought in the region is complicating matters:

“It’s exacerbated by the drought situation. We have extreme fire conditions,” said Dennis Mathisen, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “We’re seeing fire behavior we wouldn’t normally see until September.

“With warmer weather conditions, low humidity and some wind, and all you need is a spark, and a series of dry lightning strikes, and that’s a recipe for disaster,” Mathisen said.

The White House science adviser, John Holdren, has also recently gone on record about the relationship between climate change and wildfires:

While no single wildfire can be said to be caused by climate change, climate change has been making the fire season in the U.S. longer and on average more intense.

As Vox news reports, grappling with current wildfires and preparing for future climate-exacerbated fire conditions will be of utmost importance, particularly since managing these fires is seriously challenging state and federal budgets:

On Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Forest Service would blow through its firefighting budget by the end of August — months before the fiscal year ends in October. Once that happens, the agency will need to divert as much as $500 million from other programs that are intended toprevent future wildfires.

The agency is currently grappling with 30 large fires in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

Stay tuned for more on the battle against wildfires, how climate fits into the picture, and the attendant stresses on budgets.


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