Secretary Panetta received an update today from U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) Commander Gen. Charles H. Jacoby on the status of Defense Department support to the wildfires impacting Colorado Springs and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The Waldo Canyon Fire has burned over 18,500 acres of land, forcing the evacuation of at least 32,000 people and threatening over 20,000 structures in the area, including many homes of military families.
Panetta commended Jacoby for his leadership and for the National Guard and NORTHCOM’s support to the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates firefighting efforts. Panetta instructed Jacoby to continue to provide assets to the extent they are needed by federal or state authorities.
Four C-130 aircraft equipped with U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems have thus far flown 47 sorties dropping more than 100,000 gallons of retardant. Acting under immediate response authorities, the U.S. Army has provided bulldozers, other heavy equipment, and hundreds of soldiers to cut fire breaks. Twenty-two fire trucks from five military bases including the academy have joined the effort. Military personnel are providing housing, meals, and medical care at temporary shelters on Peterson Air Force Base and Fort Carson.
Panetta praised the Colorado Springs community for their resilience during this time of crisis. Jacoby made a point of noting the academy remained open to in-process the class of 2016. The secretary concluded the call by asking Jacoby to keep him informed as fire fighting efforts continue.
Note to editors: A photograph of Panetta receiving this briefing from Jacoby via telephone is available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/secdef/7461614486 .