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National Guard Troops Help Fight Wildfires in Western States

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2007 – National Guard troops from Utah, South Dakota and California are helping fight wildfires raging in their respective states in the face of blistering temperatures, gusting winds and bone-dry conditions, National Guard Bureau officials reported today.

Fifty-two Utah Army National Guard troops from the 115th Engineer Battalion and 300th Military Intelligence Brigade are assisting with road closings and evacuating campgrounds near the Neola wildfire site, officials said.

In addition, four other members of the 115th Engineers are providing bulldozer support and watching for flare-ups near the now-contained Camp Williams wildfire site.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. called about 100 Guardsmen to duty July 1 to support state and federal authorities in responding to the wildfires.

The call-up was the first significant activation of Utah Guard troops to support a state emergency since January 2005, the governor’s office reported. In that instance, the Guard was dispatched to Stockton and St. George, Utah, to assist with flood response.

In California, about 20 Army National Guard members are providing support in fighting three large fires that already have burned nearly 70,000 acres, Guard Bureau officials said.

The troops are focusing their efforts on the Inyo complex wildfire in Inyo County, now 80 percent contained, and the Zaca wildfire in Santa Barbara County, 30 percent contained. They are supporting the efforts with CH-47 Chinook, UH-60 Black Hawk and S-70 Firehawk helicopters, as well as a heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck.

The California Guardsmen are applying firefighting skills they fine-tuned during a recent three-day, large-scale interagency wildfire training exercise, state Guard officials reported. The annual training, which took place in May near Fresno, also included the California Department of Forestry and U.S. Fire Service.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, 19 Army National Guard troops are providing support in fighting fires that have burned almost 10,000 acres in Alabaugh Canyon near Hot Springs, S.D.

Using four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a HEMMT fuel tanker, the troops have dropped more than 175,000 gallons on the fire, now about 40 percent contained, officials said.

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