National Guard photo
Firefighting goats preparing to accomplish their
Fire fighting can be tough, so why not just prevent
the fires in the first place? That is the job of
the Natural Resource Management crew located at Camp
Williams. It goes back to the old adage of An
ounce of prevention is greater than a pound of
cure. But these men and women are not alone in
their fight to prevent fire. This summer, they are
being aided by a large group of extra hairy,
four-legged fire fighters.
case, about 520 goats arrived at Camp Williams on June 7th
and became that ounce of prevention, or at least part of an
innovative plan for fire prevention.
along with herbicides, chainsaws, trimmers, natural fire
resistant grasses and roads, all figure into the Utah
National Guard equation for fire prevention. Of course,
none of this would add up with out accurate calculations,
hard work, leadership and dedication by the crew at Camp
Johnson is the National Resource Manager for the Utah
National Guard. Unlike the forest service who manages land
for the sake of the land, Johnson manages the land for sake
of the soldiers and their training needs. If the military
needs cover and concealment for training, Johnson and his
crew make sure they get it. If they need an area with a
minimal fire risk for launching 40 mm grenades, then that is
Photo by Spc
Kelly K. Collett
A Red Card Holder snaps a photo of a precision
water drop by a Blackhawk from the 112th CAB.
Photo by Spc Kelly K. Collett
Range Control Officer calls in for a
precision water drop.
Johnson explains more about the goat program. In 2000, his
office received a grant from the Inner Agency Fire Committee
through the Utah State University to experiment with some
innovative fire prevention techniques. That summer, they
brought in 100 goats and did some experiments. The goats
were deployed into two-acre pens in high-risk areas on the
concentrates the goats down to where they eat until they are
satisfied. And then we move them across the road, so we
kind of leap frog them throughout the area. During the 2001
fire, even though the flamelets were 40 to 50 foot high,
when it hit these pens, the fire only penetrated at most 20
can reach up to about six feet high to get to a food
source, Johnson commented about the goats, They can even
push smaller oak trees over. Goats are mostly responsible
for reducing the heavy fuels. We mostly want them to eat
the oak brush. Thats the really heavy fuels on the
landscape and thats what carries really hot fires.
people think goats will eat just about anything. Well that
is not true, clarified Johnson. Contrary to popular
rumor, they wont eat everything. There are certain plants
that they would just have to be starved to eat. But theyll
eat a lot of our heavy fuels pretty readily, like the
sagebrush and the oak brush. And they do a great job
dealing with those fields.
catastrophic fires for Camp Williams have always been in the
oak brush. In the last ten years, the fires have burned up
to 8,000 acres at a time. But the blazing heat generated by
the fires is not the only fire hazard at Camp Williams. On
some of the ranges, Unexploded Ordinance (also called UXOs)
could also be a danger to firefighting crews, but the Camp
has developed a specialized response for those areas.
Highly skilled military personnel, known as Explosive
Ordnance Disposal (EOD), spray the ranges with herbicides to
kill the grass and other fuels which in turn keep fires from
igniting in those areas.
Utah National Guard also relies upon Red Card Holders
rugged individuals who have undergone extensive training on
wildfire management as the front line defense against
fires. Currently, the Camp has roughly 40 red card holders
available to fight fires at anytime.
a Red Card, a volunteer must first complete a rigorous 40
hour course. The course tests both the physical and
intellectual toughness of its students. The physical
portion culminates in a 45 minute, three mile road march
with a 45 lbs pack to be completed in 45 minutes, echoing
military basic training. It also teaches invaluable skills
for fighting fire in the wild.
Col. Stuart, who earned his Red Card this May, elaborates,
You learn about weather conditions you learn about fire
fuels, you learn about temperatures, humidity, and all those
kind of things that affects how a fire acts. You learn
about all the different techniques for fighting fires. You
learn about pump trucks. You learn about all the different
tools and how to light back fires to burn out fuel before it
becomes a fire. You learn about protective equipment that
needs to be worn. You learn how to cut fire lines. We
actually went out into the field and cut fire lines. [You
learn] how to put out fire in every situation.
Spc Kelly K. Collett
Red Card Holders prep a site for a round of
Utah National Guard Photo
A pen that has been effectively "fire proofed"
by its four-legged residents..
Col. Stuart explains what comes next for a wildfire fighter,
The Incident Commander course is the next step above the
Red Card certification. Those are the guys, the first guys
that are going to be called when a fire is detected. Because
now, not only do they know everything about the red card
certification, they also will be the first guys on the job
site to start directing fire fighting efforts. Theyll be
the ones talking to the helicopters, bulldozers, and to the
land crews directing them and managing the fire.
crew at Camp Williams no longer uses look-out towers, but
instead they are trained to look for fires at any given time
while they are working. There is pre-staged equipment for
every range in case of fire. For more high-risk locales,
range control insures a fire truck will be on hand.
single day we monitor our fire fuels, the temperature and
the humidity and make a fire hazard determination. We go
out and take grass samples and oak brush samples and we
measure the amount of fire fuels. We measure the humidity,
how much moisture is in those fuels. And determine what the
fire probability is in those fuels. states Lt. Col.
National Guard photo
Digging fire lines in a high-risk area at Camp
In this way, Range Control can determine the fire
hazard for the day and schedule
accordingly. If it is extremely dry and the fire hazard is
high, then many, or in some cases all training activities
involving explosives of any sort can be canceled.
those Red Card Holders that want to further their training,
there is the Incident Commander Course. Staff members who
complete this training, ultimately direct the fire fighting
efforts. Theyll be the ones talking to the helicopters,
the bulldozers, and the land crews, directing them and
managing the fire. Lt. Col. Stuart explained.
month, Incident Commanders trained how to communicate with
Blackhawk helicopter pilots. They were the eyes on the
ground that directed the water bucket in the sky. The
Commanders would relay information to the pilots about what
kind of drop they needed, how they would mark the sight,
wind speed on the ground and anything else that would prove
to be vital information. With the two groups working
together, the pilots were able to successfully maneuver the
400 gallons of water to the areas that were targeted. The
training is essential for keeping fires under control and
eventually extinguishing them.
Camp Williams men and women who work on the fire-prevention
crews to prevent fire are a dedicated bunch. Many of them
have devoted hundreds of hours into certifications and
expanding their knowledge of natural resources and fire
fighting. If the hours they put into certifications and
trainings were counted as college credit, they would have
multiple degrees in their field, explained one Red Card
Holder last week. Clearly, they exhibit a tremendous
dedication to their field and enjoy the work which they
the goats, they are also dedicated to the cause, but in this
case their stomachs are their driving force.
all, this highly capable crew brings pounds of prevention to
the table of fire prevention, and for a little help, they
have invited goats to the table as well. All right