Guardsmen Respond to New York Floods, Alaska Fires
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2007 National Guard troops are helping to search for people still missing after flash floods deluged the southern Catskill Mountains, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said in a statement today, and Alaska Guardsmen are fighting spreading wildfires in the nation’s largest state.
About 50 National Guard troops are on duty – a number that will increase to about 75 – to provide search-and-rescue, engineering and other flood-related support, officials from the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs reported today. The New York Army National Guard’s 53rd Troop Command sent combat engineers from the 204th Engineer Battalion to help remove debris and make emergency road repairs, officials said.
The task force is using six 20-ton dump trucks, three bulldozers, three bucket loaders, two excavator vehicles, two trucks and a rough terrain roller to conduct the mission.
Officials said more equipment will be provided, if needed.
Their efforts are focused on the town of Colchester and Delaware County, which received torrential rains earlier this week. Four people are reported missing.
Meanwhile, Alaska National Guard troops were helping the state Department of Forestry fight about 14 wildfires spreading across the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and crews are using Bambi buckets -- collapsible buckets with a valve on the bottom that releases water -- to help douse the flames, National Guard Bureau officials reported. Each helicopter has a six-person crew, and about 30 Guardsmen are involved in the effort.
The crews are working out of Palmer Airport, and have been asked to remain on station for seven days, officials said.
Thunderstorms, erratic winds, hot temperatures and low humidity are challenging fire-control efforts, and more troops could be needed, they said.
“The Alaska National Guard is always ready and prepared to take care of fellow Alaskans,” said Army Brig. Gen. Deborah McManus, chief of staff for the Alaska National Guard’s Joint Forces Headquarters. “We stand poised to help the firefighting efforts in other areas of the state if called upon.”