The American West Is Burning
The Army National Guard takes the pressure off firefighters
America’s western states are suffering from one of the worst wildfire seasons in history. The military has mobilized to aid firefighters battling the blaze.
We wanted to see it for ourselves. War Is Boring’s Kevin Knodell recently linked up with troops from the Washington state Army National Guard near the Okanogan Complex Fire. The soldiers work long hours darting to and from the various hotspots.
Their job — track the flames and evaluate whether they pose a hazard to life or property.
The blazes can erupt quickly, and abrupt changes in wind direction result in unpredictable effects. When the troops are not watching the flames, they’re checking on nearby residents.
Many of these troops have combat experience, but wildfires pose a whole different set of dangers. Their work frees up civilian firefighters who have the equipment and training to confront the fires directly.
Back in a command center at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds, we interviewed National Guard medics tending to firefighters and residents. Minor foot injuries are common — seemingly no biggie. But a foot injury left untreated can be debilitating, which means one more firefighter away from the front line.
Aside from common injuries, the medics encounter strange things … such as a bug that wedged itself deep inside a firefighter’s ear.