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National Guardsmen Help Battle Wildfires in Four States

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2007 – National guardsmen in four states are helping to battle wildfires that have burned more than 300,000 acres, Defense Department officials said today.

All of the guardsmen are working under command of state authorities.

In New Jersey, a training mission started a fire at the Warren Grove Training Range in the Pine Barrens. An Air Guard F-16 conducting a close air support training mission dispensed flares that started a fire in the scrub pine forest. While range safety personnel were on the site immediately, the fire jumped a county road and a state road and has burned roughly 13,500 acres, New Jersey Guard officials said.

Conditions on the ground are perfect for fires: low humidity, high wind and no rain for 20 days. New Jersey guardsmen in Blackhawk helicopters are cooperating with state forest officials and dropping water on the blaze, which has damaged about four dozen homes, officials said.

In Florida, 110 National Guardsmen are supporting firefighting efforts in Flagler County. This includes guardsmen from South Carolina, and Georgia. In Southeast Georgia, 41 guardsmen are supporting operations, officials said.

Georgia National Guard aircraft have flown 289.4 hours, delivering more than 2,500 buckets, each filled with 2,000 gallons of water onto hotspots. Guardsmen have also dumped more than 200 buckets, each filled with 700 gallons, on the flames. In Georgia, two CH-47 helicopters and a UH-60 helicopter are supporting the effort, officials said, adding that guardsmen are also providing some ground support.

In Minnesota, two Air National Guard servicemembers are supporting firefighting efforts in Grand Marais, officials said.

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