MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161, VMM-163, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, demonstrated their firefighting capabilities in concert with California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and other partner agencies during the 2018 Wildland Firefighting Exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, April 30 - May 3.
CAL FIRE prides themselves in providing fire engines, trucks and aerial teams in response to wildfires.
The exercise is an annual training event designed to increase emergency preparedness and cohesion between civilian and military firefighting agencies during California’s wildfire season. This year’s training event is dedicated to Corey Iverson, a CAL FIRE engineer who lost his life Dec. 14, 2017, while fighting the Thomas Fire in Filmore, California.
“This annual training improves response and communication procedures in the event that the military is called to assist in an actual fire,” said Capt. Robert Swartz, an MV-22 pilot and director of safety for VMM-161. “We were able to bring different types of aircraft into the same airspace and safely operate to continuously pick up water and drop it on the simulated fire.”
According to CAL FIRE, more than 5,812 acres of land have been damaged as a result of California wildfires this year.
Under Title 10, CAL FIRE has coordinated an immediate response agreement with the military. Marines can be tasked to take action as part of the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission.
“The state of California’s firefighting team can accomplish missions, but there are other assets you can use such as the Marine Corps’ MV-22’s,” said Cpl. Garrett Carr, a crew chief with VMM-161. “You aren’t limited to just one resource. In case something were to happen to [the civilian] firefighting team, or they don't have the right assets, you have four or five squadrons here that are capable of completing that mission.”
“The successes were all the way around in terms of integration with CAL FIRE and controlling the flow of traffic coming in and out of the area,” said Capt. Swartz.
CAL FIRE San Diego trains with military year-round in order to strengthen cohesion and improve procedures to fight fires on Camp Pendleton and throughout San Diego county.