Since 1975, the US Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior have had an interagency agreement with the Department of Defense (DOD) which allows DOD to provide firefighting support to the wildland fire management agencies when needed.
The US military is normally requested when national civilian resources are committed to fires and there is the need for further resources. The decision to request military support rests with the National Multi-Agency Coordinating (NMAC) Group at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). As needed, the military will send a liaison officer to NIFC who coordinates closely with the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC). NICC coordinates and tracks national firefighting requirements and plays a key role in the mobilization of military resources. The US military may provide aerial and/or ground resources.
The military also supports firefighting efforts through the Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) program. This program provides Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units flying in military C-130 aircraft equipped as airtankers to support wildland fire suppression activities. Aircrews get annual training and are certified by NIFC.
Military resources for ground firefighting are normally requested in battalion strength, which is equivalent to 25 20-person crews and their command and control elements. Each battalion fields about 550 personnel.
The military has provided firefighters and MAFFS support during several critical fires seasons, including 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006.
Army battalion, Task Force Blaze, requested from Fort Lewis, WA on August 13, was assigned to the Tripod Complex in north central Washington for 22 days.
MAFFS deployed to Williams-Gateway Airport in Phoenix, AZ and Boise Airtanker Base in Boise, ID.
MAFFS deployed to Williams-Gateway Airport and Boise Airtanker Base.
MAFFS deployed to Williams-Gateway Airport; Albuquerque Airtanker Base, New Mexico; Kingsley Field, Klamath Falls, OR; Boise Airtanker Base; Spokane International Airport, Spokane, WA; and Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, UT.
Military battalion from Fort Hood, TX, was mobilized on August 24 to assist on the firelines in Montana.
Military battalion from Fort Riley, Kansas assisted with fires in Oregon from July 23 through August 16. They were first assigned to the Monument Fire near Unity, OR and then moved to the Tiller Complex near Tiller.
MAFFS were deployed to Colorado Springs, CO; San Bernardino, CA; Hill Air Force Base, UT; Boise, ID; and Spokane, WA.
Two military battalions from Fort Lewis were assigned from August 24 to September 3 to the Virginia Lake Complex in Washington.
MAFFS were deployed to Washington and Oregon.
Five military battalions were deployed in 2000. Task Force Thunder from Fort Hood supported efforts on the Burgdorf Junction Fire near McCall, ID. Task Force Wildfire from Camp Pendleton assisted on the Clear Creek Fire near Salmon, ID. Task Force Lumberjack from Fort Hood worked on the Upper Nine Mile Complex near Huson, MT. Task Force Four from Fort Campbell fought fires on the Bitterroot National Forest. The fifth Task Force from Fort Bragg was assigned to the Troy South Fire on the Kootenai National Forest.
An Army battalion from Fort Carson and a Marine battalion from Camp Pendleton assisted with firefighting efforts.
MAFFS were deployed to northern California.
Seven military battalions were activated during 1994, including two Marine battalions from Camp Pendleton and five Army battalions (two from Fort Hood, two from Fort Lewis, and one from Fort Riley).
MAFFS were deployed to Idaho, Washington, and Montana.
Four Army battalions (two from Fort Lewis and two from Fort Carson) assisted firefighting efforts in Oregon and California.
MAFFS were deployed to southern California.
Four Army battalions (two from Fort Lewis, one from Fort Carson, and one from Fort Riley) assisted on fires in Idaho and Oregon.
MAFFS and 19 helicopters from Fort Campbell were also deployed to Idaho and Oregon.
Six Army and two Marine battalions provided firefighting assistance during the Yellowstone Fires.
MAFFS and 57 helicopters were also deployed to Yellowstone.