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Homeland Security

Guard to Support California Firefighting mission

Oct 23, 2007
BY National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2007) -- The California National Guard has been directed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make 1,500 Guardmembers available to support efforts to fight at least 14 wildfires that are ravaging the drought-stricken southern part of the state.

The Guardmembers included 200 troops who are patrolling the California-Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start, the mission to keep illegal aliens from entering the United States.

More than 200 Guardmembers were sent to help with San Diego civilian evacuations, California Guard officials reported. One hundred Guard troops were sent to Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, and another hundred were dispatched to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The California governor on Sunday requested that four California Guard helicopters support the firefighting mission.

Most of the troops remained on standby Monday night. They would be deployed at the direction of the governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) to areas where they could most help the efforts to save lives from the dangerous wildfires blown by fierce desert winds and to prevent looting.

At least 300,000 people along the 150 miles between San Diego and Malibu, west of Los Angeles, were warned to leave their homes by Tuesday morning; at least one person was killed and dozens more were injured by the fires that covered nearly 246,000 acres, equal to 384 square miles, the Associated Press reported. Among the evacuees were members of a National Guard unit that had to flee its barracks, officials said.

At least 655 homes were burned by Monday night, including 130 in a single mountain area, 168 businesses and other structures were destroyed, and thousands of other buildings were threatened in a seven-county area, the AP and CNN reported.

"It is a tragic time for California. I saw the tremendous devastation caused by these fires firsthand today, and I want to commend all of the brave firefighters that have been battling the blazes around our state. They have done an extraordinary job," Gov. Schwarzenegger said.

"We have the best trained, the best equipped and the most experienced firefighters in the world, and I am committed to making all of the state's resources available to them to get these fires under control," the California governor added. "That is why I have declared a state of emergency and directed the National Guard to support the firefighters in the Southern California."

Three California Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, with three-member flight crews, were standing by at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base to conduct fire suppression missions, and a Guard S-70 Firehawk and three-member crew was on call at Mather Airfield.

Furthermore, four C-130 Military Airborne Fire Fighting System airplanes were being deployed from North Carolina and Wyoming to Point Mague, Calif., in case they were needed to drop retardant on the wildfires, Guard officials said.

"The National Guard is prepared to respond to the California fires in support of civilian responders. If the governor needs it and the Guard has it, he will get it," California Guard officials, led by Maj. Gen. William Wade II, the adjutant general, vowed.

California Guardmembers are experienced in executing firefighting missions, it was pointed out, and in May conducted an annual three-day, large-scale wildfire training exercise near Fresno with civilian firefighters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

The California Guard has more than 17,000 Soldiers and Airmen available to the governor. Some 34,000 are available in the western region, and nationally, 390,000 Guardmembers are available, the National Guard Bureau reported.

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