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DoD Lends Hand in California Wildfire Fight

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2003 – More military units are helping combat the wildfires raging in California, Pentagon officials said today.

In the San Diego area, the Navy evacuated five military housing areas with 2,883 units. The evacuees have been placed at local bases.

Fires on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are 90 percent contained, and fires at Camp Pendleton are 75 percent contained. The fires at the bases are not threatening government facilities. Firefighters at the bases are helping their civilian counterparts throughout the region, officials said.

Two modular airborne firefighting systems began operations yesterday, and more will follow. The systems fit inside C- 130 aircraft. California Air National Guard crews began flying missions with the systems. The Air Force Reserve's 302nd Wing from Colorado Springs, Colo., also is flying missions.

Aircraft from the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Air Wing and the North Carolina Guard's 145th Air Wing are on their way to the region with four more of the modular systems.

DoD officials stress they are ready to provide additional support as required. Local commanders have the authority to provide immediate emergency assistance without waiting for permission from Washington.

The fires, stretching from the Mexican border to the northern suburbs of Los Angeles, have destroyed more than 830 homes and burned out more than 500,000 acres. California officials said the fires are responsible for at least 15 deaths.

President Bush declared the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino and Ventura federal disaster areas.

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