Boise, Idaho July 27, 2018 – The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) is raising the National Fire Preparedness Level (PL) to its highest point, PL-5, effective at 2:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time on July 27, 2018. The PL ranges from one, indicating minimal activity, to five, which signals very high activity.
NMAC, which consists of top federal and state fire managers, sets the national PL. The raised preparedness level reflects a high degree of wildfire activity, a major commitment of fire resources, and the probability that severe conditions will continue for at least a few days.
“A significant amount of initial and extended attack and large fire activity has occurred over the past several days as a result of lightning storms that have intensified local and geographic response,” said Dan Smith, chair of NMAC. “Given the continuing hot and dry weather and the increase in fire activity in the western U.S., the decision to move to Preparedness Level 5 depicts the complexity that fire managers are encountering to assure that adequate firefighting resources are available for protection of life, property and our nation’s natural resources.”
During periods of high wildfire activity, when assets are stretched thin, federal, tribal, state and local partners work together to prioritize wildfires so that those threatening life, property and valuable natural and cultural resources receive assets as quickly as possible. Professional wildfire managers adapt their strategies and tactics based on the assets that they receive and do the very best they can to suppress unwanted wildfires effectively and efficiently.
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Wildfire activity has escalated in recent days after thunderstorms, many with little or no moisture, moved across parts of Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington, sparking hundreds of new fires. To date, 36,689 wildfires have burned over 4,151,098 million acres of federal, tribal, state, and private land in the United States this year. In comparison, the amount of wildfires to date is slightly below the ten-year average of 38,620 fires. However, the ten-year average for the amount of acres burned is 3,645,013 million acres, which is lower than current acres burned to date this year.
During PL-5, further assistance from the military, beyond what is already in use, and international resources may be considered and requested, and agency personnel in other positions may be activated for fire duty, but no decisions have been made concerning those steps. In 2017, 200 soldiers from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion and 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry Regiment), 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) in Washington were assigned to the Umpqua North Complex fires in Oregon for 30 days.
The last time that the National Preparedness Level was raised to 5 was on August 10, 2017. The National Preparedness Level remained at PL-5 for 40 days until it was dropped to 4 on September 18, 2017. This is the fourth time that PL-5 has been reached in the last ten years (since 2009).