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American Forces Press Service

Army Withdraws Command Post from California Wildfire Duty

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2007 – An Army organization that provides support to civil authorities during emergencies is withdrawing its command-and-control detail from southern California, according to a U.S. Army North news release.

The nearly 70 departing servicemembers belong to San Antonio-based U.S. Army North, a component of U.S. Northern Command, the unified command on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., that’s responsible for homeland defense and civil support.

Since Oct. 25, the Army command post coordinated Defense Department assets in fighting a series of wildfires that raged across southern California.

Army North will keep Col. Mark Armstrong in southern California for now as the Defense Department’s senior representative on the ground to facilitate requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency assigned to California wildfire-fighting efforts.

Meanwhile, an eight-person Joint Task Force Civil Support planning team from Fort Monroe, Va., is being deployed to Sacramento, Calif., to support the state’s Army and Air National Guard’s planning effort, NORTHCOM officials said. The team consists of military planners with expertise in medicine; intelligence; logistics; military operations; air operations; and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives. It will work out of the state’s Joint Force Headquarters.

The joint task force provides operational control of federal military forces deployed to support civilian agencies in emergencies. Its mission is to save lives and prevent injury.

Other military air and ground assets in California continue to assist as the wildfires are extinguished. California fire control officials have said they expect the fires to be out by tomorrow.

Nearly 3,000 California Guardsmen have been employed in firefighting, security and communications duties.

The wildfires destroyed more than 2,700 buildings. More than 500,000 people were evacuated from their homes from an area north of Los Angeles to the Mexican border. Seven people were killed as a result of the blazes, and 117 were injured.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also is working with FEMA to address local power, housing, planning, debris removal and disposal needs.

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