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American Forces Press Service

NORTHCOM Commander Outlines California Wildfire Response

American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Oct. 24, 2007 – Lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina are helping U.S. Northern Command and its interagency partners efficiently and effectively support current wildfire response efforts in California, the organization’s commander said yesterday.

Air Force Gen. Victor R. Renuart Jr. briefed reporters at NORTHCOM’s headquarters here on the command's wildfire support efforts in the San Diego area.

NORTHCOM is the joint combatant command formed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to provide homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities. The command is responsible for the operational control of all active duty military responses to a disaster when requested by the state and ordered by the president and the secretary of defense.

“We’re really working hard to make every effort (to ensure) that the citizens of California get the right kind of support that they need and that it gets to them in a timely fashion,” Renuart said. “We are the lead command for the Department of Defense for military support for civil authorities and, as such, we are closely tied to the state of California, with the Department of Defense and with the National Guard Bureau to provide the right kind of capability to ensure the response is appropriate.”

Renuart said the involvement of more than 2,000 personnel at NORTHCOM headquarters, more than 500 at U.S. Army North, and elements that have been deployed to the affected areas would not be possible if the interagency community and NORTHCOM had not applied and practiced the lessons learned during the Hurricane Katrina response in 2005.

The challenges presented to NORTHCOM by the Katrina relief effort included coordinating the efforts of federal civilian responders and federal military responders with the states and the National Guard, Renuart said.

“We learned a lot out of Katrina on how to prepare for a disaster like that by exercising and training and building a real planning culture among all of those interagency participants," he said. “We really do anticipate the needs of a particular disaster ahead of time, and we’re able to pre-position resources.”

Renuart said the members of the command are proud to be of help during the California wildfire crisis.

“The thoughts and prayers of all of the team here at NORTHCOM and NORAD are with the families in southern California during this time,” he said.

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