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DoD Responds to Request for Firefighting Equipment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2003 – Firefighting equipment California officials requested from the Defense Department soon will be battling the wildfires in the southern part of the state, Pentagon officials said.

The National Interagency Fire Center requested two modular airborne firefighting systems from DoD. The systems fit inside C-130 Hercules transport planes and can spread water or flame retardant over an area 60 feet wide by a quarter mile long.

Officials said each unit carries 2,750 to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in five 500-gallon interconnected tanks.

The U.S. Forest Service owns the systems, but they are on extended loan to National Guard and Air Force Reserve units. Air Guard or Reserve units will fly the aircraft.

Military personnel stand ready to help fight the fires in Southern California, officials said. Firefighters at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, Calif., have been helping the local communities. The fire did come onto Miramar, but officials said it did little damage to buildings. Officials said that the blaze on the base is 90 percent contained, with just a few hot spots remaining.

A neighboring community lost more than 150 homes. Many military families lived in that community, and the temporary lodging facilities at Miramar and at Camp Pendleton are ready to receive military families.

Camp Pendleton has had some range fires but no damage at that base, Pentagon officials said.

California Gov. Gray Davis declared emergencies in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties. A total of 13 people have died as a result of the fires.

Six major wildfires and a number of smaller ones are burning. The region's hot, dry Santa Ana winds are driving the fires. More than 825 homes have been destroyed from the Mexican border to the southern Los Angeles suburbs.

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