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Guard aircraft, aircrews battling California wildfires

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

6/24/2008 - ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) -- Army and Air National Guardmembers from California and North Carolina were supporting firefighting efforts in Northern California June 24 following a state active duty call up by Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger and a request for airborne firefighting assets by the Interagency Fire Center.

The governor's office reported June 23 that a "swarm of dry lighting cells over the last 16 hours sparked nearly 400 new fires across the state, spanning from Monterey and Fresno counties to the Oregon-California border."

Governor Schwarznegger declared a state of emergency June 22 for Monterey and Trinity counties. The governor declared similar declarations for Butte and Santa Cruz counties June 11 and 12. At least 30 Guard members were operating in Redding, Napa and Stockton.

IFC officials reported more than 33,000 wild land fires in the U.S. this year. More than 1,000 new fires were reported in California June 21 through 23.

Two specially equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft, aircrews and support assets from the North Carolina Air Guard's 145th Airlift Wing arrived in Chico, Calif., June 23 adding to 10 other Army and Air National Guard aircraft and aircrews performing firefighting missions in the state.

Four Air Guard C-130s carry special Mobile Airborne Firefighting Systems that can drop 3,000 gallons of orange colored water/fire retardant mixture. In addition, four Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and one CH-47 Chinook helicopter equipped with helibuckets are also suppressing wildfires from a staging area at the Stockton Flight Facility. Two Army Guard OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopters from Los Alamitos are performing fire spotting missions out of Mather Air Field and one RC-26 Metroliner is performing aerial reconnaissance missions. Officials reported additional requests for at least eight Army Guard aircraft from Nevada, Washington and Oregon.

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