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Colorado and Wyoming National Guard troops helping wildfire battles

By Steve Marshall | National Guard Bureau July 7, 2017

ARLINGTON, Va. -- As wildfires burned Friday in Colorado and Wyoming, National Guard troops and helicopters joined the battle to assist civilian fire crews.

In Wyoming, Gov. Matt Mead authorized two Wyoming Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews to begin aerial firefighting measures Thursday on the Keystone Fire.

The Keystone Fire, located in the Medicine Bow National Forest south of Rob Roy Reservoir, was last recorded at 1,300 acres.

Crews are on orders for six days, but orders can be modified based on the needs of the incident commander, the Wyoming National Guard said in a news release.

"The Wyoming National Guard is committed to helping our local officials and assist in fire mitigation to preserve our communities and resources," said Col. Greg Phipps, Wyoming National Guard director of joint operations.

The last time Wyoming Army National Guard Black Hawk crews were activated by the governor to provide water bucket operations in the state was in 2012 on fires in Weston, Platte and Natrona Counties.

And in Colorado, the Peak 2 fire was blazing about 2 miles north of Breckenridge Ski Resort.

Nearly 20 Colorado Army National Guard Soldiers were mobilized on a verbal order from Gov. John Hickenlooper. They're flying two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters to aid fire crews.

More than 100 firefighters were battling the burn Thursday under broken clouds, steady winds and the occasional drizzle, The Denver Post reported.

The Post said no structural damages or injuries were reported.

The Peak 2 fire was first spotted just before noon Wednesday by a mountain biker roughly 4 miles north of Breckenridge. The blaze was only about 50 feet by 50 feet. But by the time firefighters reached the heavily wooded area an hour later, flames had spread to the tops of trees and were sending massive plumes of smoke into the air, The Post said.

The Colorado fire was reported at about 85 acres and evacuations were underway for people and animals.

"We're here to support our neighbors in Summit County," said the adjutant general of Colorado, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, who commands the Colorado National Guard. "I have the utmost confidence in the readiness of our well-trained and experienced Soldiers and Airmen."

Each helicopter is equipped with an aerial water bucket, which is capable of carrying and delivering up to 500 (Black Hawk) or 2,000 (Chinook) gallons of water, or fire retardant slurry, at one time.

Contributing: The Colorado and Wyoming National Guard

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