Thai and U.S. guardsmen jointly train to fight wildfires

Members of Washington State’s National Guard and the Royal Thai Army conducted a week-long joint training session in northern Thailand on fighting wildfires, as forest fires in both countries have been increasing partly as a result of climate change.
The joint training was the second such event since the guard and the army established a relationship 20 years ago. The wooded mountainous terrain of the Pacific Northwest is similar to the hilly forested regions of Thailand’s far north.
“The Washington National Guard Wildland Firefighting Exchange Team is hopeful that this builds relationships and opportunities in the future,” said Col. Amanda Doyle, Team Lead for the exchange. “Thailand and Washington have several similarities in the impacts of wildfires on the economy, public opinion and safety within our borders. Any chance we have to share information and learn from each other is beneficial.”
Thailand’s peak fire season starts in early February and lasts around 13 weeks, spanning the country’s cool season the beginning of its hot season. Conditions during that period are dry and can cause vegetation to become flammable. While any spark can start a fire, blazes are often caused by intentional burning of agricultural land gone out of control.
The weeklong exercises took place in Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. A one-day virtual fire management discussion also took place between the Washington Department of Natural Resources and Royal Thai Forestry Department. Its purpose was to discuss fire operations, weather forecasting and incident weather, fuels mitigation, prescribed burning, risk mitigation and public information operations.
“The exchange of information on tactics in each of our unique firefighting environments was great too. I really hope to do more hands-on work with the Thai Army firefighters in the future,” said SPC Austin Miller of the 176th Engineer Company.
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