Marine Corps Hosts Wildland Aerial Firefighting Exercise

Marine Corps Hosts Wildland Aerial Firefighting Exercise

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May 1, 2014 – –  With strong Santa Ana winds, low humidity and drought conditions in Southern California as a backdrop, the United States Marine Corps hosted an aerial firefighting exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the seventh iteration of its kind.

Since the massive wildfires of 2003 and 2007 in Southern California, the use of military assets for firefighting has gone from an idea to a full-fledged active program. Marine and Navy aircrews, Marine heavy equipment operators and federal firefighters stationed aboard Camp Pendleton have all trained with CAL FIRE to produce a highly trained, interagency force that is ready to take on not only fires, but natural disasters and other calamities.

With the driest year in recorded state history well underway and CAL FIRE bringing full staffing to San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties months ahead of schedule, the fire outlook for a the remainder of the year in southern California is grim. 

While Camp Pendleton’s federal firefighters do respond to incidents outside the base, Navy and Marine assets cannot be brought into play until all civilian equipment is engaged and no other assets are available. At that point, thanks to a number of years of training, Navy and Marine personnel and Camp Pendleton’s firefighters are ready to join the fight thanks to a program that is unmatched anywhere else in the United States.

Bob Graham is a writer and photojournalist based in San Diego. He has worked in fire journalism for many years; one of his technical writing projects well known to firefighters over the past few years was the Holmatro Guide to Vehicle Extrication. Graham’s background includes a stint in the automotive industry, where he was one of the first Toyota Master Technicians in the U.S.; a degree in Business Administration; and photography projects in aviation, railroading and endangered species.