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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Montana National Guard Prepares To Join Statewide Firefighting Efforts

Smoke from the Marston Fire, buring in Lincoln County.
Smoke from the Marston Fire, buring in Lincoln County.

Several dozen Montana National Guard members are getting ready to join the statewide firefighting effort - and they could soon be joined by active-duty troops. Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency on Sunday, allowing state resources including the National Guard to be mobilized.

Montana State Forester Bob Harrington says while the guard hasn’t been formally activated, they’re preparing for action.

"We’re training and briefing the pilots and staff associated with two modules that are Blackhawk helicopters that will be flying in tandem with DNRC helicopters, and then two Chinook helicopters that will be made available for use on some of the larger fires."

At the same time the National Interagency Fire Center is mobilizing 200 active-duty army troops. NIFC spokesman Ken Frederick says they will join agency firefighters on the ground.

"They’ll be actually trained in how to dig fireline and mop up fires and how to maintain situational awareness. They aren't given the same amount of training that a regular firefighter is given because we don't have the luxury of that kind of time for that. But they are given a good solid amount of training commensurate with the kind of work we will expect them to do."

The army troops being mobilized are from Joint Base Lewis-McCord in Washington State. By the weekend, Frederick says they will be ready to deploy to one of the fires burning in western U.S.

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