200 JBLM soldiers to be sent to fight massive California wildfires

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Dozens of servicemembers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord will get a crash course on becoming wildland firefighters.

About 200 JBLM soldiers will start training Aug. 9 and will be certified by the National Interagency Fire Center before being sent to battle any of the 18 active fires in California. They will be supporting Cal Fire crews already fighting the fires.

"We are honored to assist the National Interagency Fire Center with their fire suppression efforts," said the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Eric Parthermore.  "Paramount to this mission is the safety of all Lancer Brigade Soldiers, which is why they will undergo a rigorous training, and certification process and will work for trained firefighters.  I am confident that all 200 Lander Brigade Soldiers are ready to rapidly deploy to protect lives, property, and natural and cultural resources in the western United States."

Twin Northern California blazes fueled by dry vegetation and hot, windy weather grew Monday to become the largest wildfire in state history, becoming the norm as climate change makes the fire season longer and more severe.

The two fires burning a few miles apart and known as the Mendocino Complex are being treated as one incident. It has scorched 443 square miles (1,148.4 square kilometers), fire officials said Monday.

The fires, north of San Francisco, have burned 75 homes and is only 30 percent contained.

JBLM soldiers most recently supported wildfire efforts in Oregon in September 2017.