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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 481-00
July 31, 2000

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE ADDS 1,000 SOLDIERS, MARINES TO FIGHT WILDLAND WILDFIRES

More than 1,000 soldiers and Marines are being added to the Department of Defense mission to augment federal and local firefighters and law enforcement officials in several western states. This brings the total of active duty military and National Guard soldiers and airmen to more than 1,300.

About 500 soldiers from the Army's 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery, at Fort Hood, Texas, are expected to deploy Tuesday to Boise, Idaho, to begin final preparation enroute to the Burgdorf Junction Fire on the Payette National Forest near McCall, Idaho.

Another 500 Marines from 3d Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. have been identified and will begin preparations and are expected to be in Boise by Friday.

The soldiers and Marines will have received the same training as all crews who work on a fire line: classroom orientation followed by hands-on field training.

Federal firefighting officials at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise have formally requested assistance from the Department of Defense during one of the worst wildfire seasons in a decade.

NIFC has instituted a "Preparedness Level 5" indicating that all federal firefighting resources are fully committed.

The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve are providing eight C-130 aircrews and aircraft, equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system. Units include the Air Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne, Wyo.; 145th Airlift Wing, Charlotte, N.C., operating from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The Air Guard's 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands, Calif. and the Air Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing, Colorado Springs, Colo., are conducting operations from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif.

Already the aircrews have flown more than 224 hours with 187 sorties and 186 airdrops totaling more than 592,180 gallons of fire retardant chemicals.

Also on the ground, the Army has deployed five active duty soldiers to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho to serve as the U.S. Defense Liaison Team.

The National Guard, serving on state active duty, is providing personnel and assets in six states. The Arizona National Guard is providing two soldiers and armories for staging bases in Coconing and Yavapai counties, and six soldiers and one UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter with a 200-gal. water bucket for operations near Safford.

In Montana in Lewis and Clark County, 130 Army and Air Guardsmen are providing law enforcement support for traffic control, aviation support and firefighters. They have one UH-60 and two UH-1 Huey helicopters with water buckets, three 2 1/2-ton trucks, three commercial utility cargo vehicles, two "Humvees" and one heavy duty pick-up truck

The Colorado Army Guard is providing 29 soldiers in Montezuma County for transportation support for firefighters and three five-ton trucks, seven 2 1/2 - ton trucks, one five-ton wrecker, and two "Humvee" ambulances.

The California Army Guard also has activated 29 soldiers in various counties for aviation support. They are using two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and two UH-60's with water buckets.

In Idaho, 35 Army Guardsmen and two Air Guardsmen have been activated to provide security in Custer County where forest fires have threatened local communities. They are providing support with 11 Humvees and one 5-ton truck with water trailer.

In Utah, Guard officials are providing a barracks as a staging site for firefighters.

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