The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group (NMAC) Thursday increased the National Fire Preparedness Level to its highest point, Level Five.
The levels range from one, indicating minimal activity, to five, which signals very high activity. NMAC consists of top federal and state fire managers.
The last time that the National Preparedness Level was raised to Five was on August 20, 2013.
As of Thursday, there were 51 large, active wildfires burning 731,819 acres in 11 states, with 14 of those fires in California and 12 in Oregon.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), based in Boise, is a support center for wildland firefighting across the U.S.
Jessica Gardetto with NIFC says the move to Level Five means resources are shifted to where they're needed most.
"Fires that are threatening lives and private property, that's where we're going to send a lot of our resources, make sure we can knock those fires down and prevent homes from burning, if possible at any time," says Gardetto.
Gardetto says some of those resources - two C-130 airtankers - are being sent to northern California.
They will initially be based at McClellan Airtanker Base in Sacramento County, joining two other C-130's that were previously sent to help crews on wildfires in the western region.
The airtankers, called Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than five minutes to support efforts on the ground.
Gardetto says the forecast for more hot, dry weather in western states raises the potential for more wildfires, and is another reason the agency has shifted resources to help firefighting efforts.
She says wildfire activity has escalated in recent days after thunderstorms, many with little or no moisture, moved across parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, sparking hundreds of new fires.
As of August 13, 39,254 wildfires have burned nearly 6.4 million acres in the United States this year.
The number of wildfires in 2015 represents about 80 percent of the ten-year average. However, the number of current acres burned represents about a 38 percent increase over the ten-year average at this point in the year.
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