National Guard troops dispatched to battle wildfires

National Guard troops dispatched to battle wildfires

7 July 2008

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USA — More than 20 soldiers from the Atascadero Armory’s 149th brigade support battalion were recently deployed to help douse some of the wildfires raging in the state as part of a California National Guard mission dubbed Operation Lightning Strike.

The local group of soldiers will soon join the National Guardsmen who will undergo 40 hours of training before entering the front lines with efforts focused in Northern California. The training will take place at McClellan Air Park in Northern California at the Wildfire Training Center.

The guardsmen started filtering into the training last week. They will likely be deployed early this week, according to Captain Jonathan Shiroma. Cal Fire will train the National Guard personnel on firefighting techniques.

After receiving the necessary training and certification, the soldiers will support Cal Fire first responders with ten Type II handcrews, truck transportation support and command and control personnel, according to a press release.

The state National Guard is assisting the U.S. Forest Service in firefighting efforts to contain and control the more than 1,700 wildfires burning throughout the state, wreaking havoc on tens upon tens of thousands of acres.

According to the California National Guard Web site,, civilian fire crews from all over the state have been called to help, including those from Atascadero. National Guard service members from across the country, meanwhile, have been on the job on the front lines, dropping water from aircraft high above and performing firefighting duties. According to the Web site, National Guard aviators have dumped tons of water on the flames burning in several different locations. The guard is also deploying bulldozers to assist in cutting firelines.

The ground crews and bulldozers are in addition to firefighting helicopters and other aviation support that the California National Guard has deployed as part of the interagency effort to combat the wildfires, according to the release.

According to Cal Fire’s Web site,, at its peak more than 1,700 wildfires were burning in California. As of Monday, more than 1,400 have been contained with 330 still active statewide. There are more than 19,000 personnel committed to the firelines.

The California National Guard, with support from National Guard equipment and personnel from various other states, is providing rotary aircraft, fixed-wing aircraft, and hundreds of personnel to assist in extinguishing various northern California wildfires, according to the Web site.

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