Department of Defense Continues Aid on California's Fire Front

Story Number: NNS071024-14Release Date: 10/24/2007 4:52:00 PM
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By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Military C-130s with modular air firefighting systems this morning began dropping fire retardant and water on wildfires plaguing California. They will continue the effort as long as wind conditions allow, defense officials said.

A total of 16 wildfires have burned more than 360,000 acres in Southern California, and hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from homes in danger areas, California National Guard officials said.

California officials said that five people have died as a result of the fires; more than 2,100 homes and other structures have been destroyed or damaged; and more than 87,500 structures are in danger from the fast-moving fires. Santa Ana winds, often blowing at speeds up to 100 miles per hour, have complicated firefighting efforts.

Fourteen helicopters from the California National Guard, the Navy and Marine Corps are using buckets to drop water on the blazes, officials said.

Everything California has asked the Department of Defense for has been delivered, U.S. Northern Command officials said, and command officials are leaning forward to anticipate what the state might need as the crisis continues.

Thirty-two active-duty service members, 67 defense civilians and 1,500 National Guardsmen are directly engaged in immediate response, supporting firefighting response, command and control, logistics support, security, communications and relief operations, U.S. Northern Command officials said. U.S. Northern Command is responsible for coordinating defense support to civil authorities in emergencies.

A total of 550 Marines and 17,301 California National Guardsmen are standing by, available for duty if needed. The Marines are receiving firefighting training in anticipation of being called. Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said that federal firefighters will flow into the area over the next few days.

About 1,400 Navy personnel and their families have been evacuated onto three Navy bases: Coronado, El Centro and San Diego. This clears civilian shelters for more evacuees.

The Marine Corps has evacuated about 40 aircraft from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, officials said.

An Aegis cruiser, a guided-missile destroyer and two fast frigates will remain in port to support evacuation and movement of dependents.

Local military installations have provided about 10,000 cots to local evacuation sites, NORTHCOM officials said. In response to a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Defense Department has designated March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif., and North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego for use as forward staging areas for federal supplies flowing south from the FEMA logistics center at Moffitt Field, Calif.

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Sailors attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85 disembark from aircraft number 85 after assisting in fire fighting efforts in the San Diego area.
071023-N-2717A-044 SAN DIEGO (Oct. 23, 2007) - Sailors attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85 disembark from aircraft number 85 after assisting in fire fighting efforts in the San Diego area. HSC-85 is the only Navy helicopter squadron in San Diego qualified to assist in the fire fighting effort. More than a quarter-million people were urged to flee their homes across Southern California as wildfires blown by fierce desert winds raced over the landscape with terrifying speed, destroying hundreds of structures, clogging highways, sending smoke and ash over a wide area. The numerous fires in San Diego County currently threaten no Navy facilities. The Navy is working with various agencies to aide in combating the fires and providing assistance to both military and civilians. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Porter Anderson
October 24, 2007
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