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Next Battle for Fort Bragg Soldiers: Western Fires

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FORT BRAGG — Fort Bragg soldiers are preparing for their next battle. This time, the enemy is fire, specifically, those out west.

Fort Bragg is sending more than 500 soldiers to the front lines of the wildfires. They have been issued basic firefighting gear, including hard hats, masks and lightweight clothing.

The soldiers will leave Monday morning. They will get a send-off at Pope Air Force Base from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.

Once they arrive in Montana, the soldiers will get a few more days of training in hand tool use and fire line techniques.

The mission is expected to last about 30 days.

The soldiers' help is really needed. In Montana, two large wildfires have combined to form a giant blaze covering nearly one-quarter of a million acres.

One fire official says it is going to take a significant amount of rain to stop the flames in the Bitterroot Valley.

But the latest weather forecast calls for more windy conditions.

Sunday, Montana's governor blasted the Clinton administration for not doing enough to prevent future fires.

He is suggesting that timber companies be allowed to cut down forests to prevent fires.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt calls that idea "preposterous."

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Lori Pickel, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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