Sacramento, California - At the request of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) the California National Guard mobilized nine of its helicopters this morning to help battle Northern California wildfires. The request came last evening through the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
The nine Army National Guard aircraft active in supporting CAL FIRE include four UH-60 Black Hawk, two CH-47 Chinook, two LUH-72 Lakota and one HH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopters. The aircraft provide water bucket, medical evacuation and personnel and equipment transportation capabilities.
"CAL FIRE's long standing relationship with the California National Guard allows for seamless activation of these resources," said Chief Ken Pimlott, CAL FIRE director. "This activation will provide additional equipment and personnel to augment our forces during the high level of fire activity we are experiencing across the state."
Currently, firefighting resources are on more than a dozen large wildfires around the state. California's dry drought conditions and strong winds have made for erratic fire conditions and rapid rates of spread.
"Our partners at the Cal Guard are stepping up with these aircraft to assist our local communities already in the fire fight," said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. "The mutual aid system here in California is world class and allows us to reach out to Cal Guard and others to support major incidents like these fires."
Last year, the Cal Guard aircraft dropped more than 1.2 million gallons of water and retardant on wildfires across California. The aircraft also collected nearly 200 hours of valuable video, streaming real-time and thermal imagery of the fires to incident commanders on the ground. In addition, about 300 Cal Guardsmen were trained as ground crews to help contain the fires.
"Responding to state emergencies is what distinguishes the National Guard from the rest of the Armed Forces," said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California's Adjutant General. "Whether its wildfires or people in distress, Cal Guardsmen train year-round with CAL FIRE and Cal OES to ensure we're ready to respond when our neighbors need us most."