MARINE CORPS CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted a Woodland Firefighting Course aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 26, 2014. The training was led by firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Camp Pendleton Fire Department.
Under the provisions of the Defense Support of Civil Authorities, federal troops may be called upon to supplement emergency responders once all other local and state resources have been exhausted. Marines with the division have been utilized in this role twice in the past, and proactively selected Marines to be trained in wildfire response in case they are ever needed under DSCA.
Marines started the training with classes on fire behavior, the effects of weather on fire, and topographical effects on a wildfire.
The next portion of the course took Marines outside for hands-on practice with the fire systems. The Marines learned the appropriate way to set up a fire shelter, use hand tools for line construction, and how to properly lay progressive hoses to a wild fire.
Marines used shovels to widen firebreaks, a tactic used by firefighters to prevent further spreading of fires. Firebreaks are areas where firefighters remove anything that could fuel a blaze.
“I think this course is helpful because if it came down to it and civilian fire departments need our help, we can be there,” said Cpl. Craig Gay, a radio operator with 2/11 from Philadelphia, Penn.
George Shinrock, the regional program manager for fire emergency services, said the DSCA allows for Marines to be used in extraordinary circumstances — not the routine wildfires that often occur. Any troops used in this capacity operate within clearly-defined parameters.
When fires burn for weeks at a time, and in multiple locations, DSCA can provide authority to augment existing firefighting assets with troops — but only as an option of last resort.
“I’m glad we will be able to help out, not to take their job, but to work alongside them,” said Gay. “They serve us like we serve them, and it feels good to be able to give back.”
Camp Pendleton is one of four military installations chosen in the western region to respond when all other civilian resources have been used. Shinrock said, during such a dry season, the likelihood of having to use military resources for a large campaign fire is a distinct possibility.
“This is the first time Marines are doing pre-training for a fire deployment,” said Shinrock. “The Marines are learning a lot, and can pass the knowledge they’ve gained when they get back to their units to make the transition for future courses easier.”
Marines who attended the training will share the techniques they learned with their fellow Marines to ensure their unit is ready should they be called to respond under DSCA, said Shinrock.