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Western Wildfires: 200 Active-Duty Soldiers Will Help Fight Blazes

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The government will mobilize 200 active-duty soldiers to help fight the wildfires torching the West — the first time it has taken that step in nearly a decade.

The Defense Department said the soldiers would come from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington state. They will be divided into 10 crews of 20 soldiers each and sent Sunday to a wildfire to be determined.

An estimated 95 wildfires are burning across 1.1 million acres of land in seven Western states, taxing firefighters and budgets.

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Before deployment, the soldiers will be trained as firefighters for one day in a classroom and two days in the field, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

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Active-duty military personnel have been mobilized 35 times since 1987 to fight wildfires, the center said. The last time was in 2006, when a battalion from Lewis-McChord helped fight a fire in Washington state.

In the current wildfire outbreak, California, Washington and Oregon have also mobilized the National Guard.