USA – SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Army National Guard Soldiers completed fire hand crew training Wednesday at Camp Roberts and are heading out to the Salmon-August Complex Fire near Etna, California, as well as the Mission Fire, near Oakhurst, California, and wherever else needed.
Fires are ravaging thousands of Western acres, producing acrid smoke and spreading destruction in multiple states including Montana, Oregon and Washington besides California.
About 350 California Soldiers took part in the training on the baking hot hills of Camp Roberts, led by about 50 experienced firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).
The Soldiers were divided into 12 hand crews and led through six stations where they practiced everything from using fire shelters to digging trenches, chopping logs and cutting fire lines with tools such as the Pulaski, McLeod and shovel.
The troops reported to their armories the Friday before the Labor Day weekend and have been training since then. They’re expected to be out on the fire lines supporting CAL FIRE firefighters for the rest of September.
The California National Guard was busy assisting Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and now the 129th Rescue Wing, based in Silicon Valley, will be heading to Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, which is sweeping through the Caribbean heading toward Florida.
The 129th Rescue Wing plans to deploy approximately 100 of its members this week, including the Guardian Angel pararescuemen, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. They plan to operate two HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and three MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft out of the Air Force’s Hurlburt Field in the Florida panhandle, the news report said.
The 129th Rescue Wing was credited with 113 saves while operating in Texas.
Just over 400 Soldiers are working with state fire workers on the California fire lines. In addition, six Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and two C-130J Air National Guard air tanker craft are helping the fire fight.
In Montana, nearly 400 troops are fighting several fires, including the Alice Creer Fire, McCully Fire, Sapphire Complex and Rice Ridge Fires, the Meyers Fire and the Lolo Peak Fire.
And in sweltering Oregon, more than 430 troops are battling flames in Whitewater, High Cascades Complex and the Checo Bar Fire. Those troops were activated Aug. 4.