Santa Ana Winds Subside; Officials Expect to Make Fire Progress
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25, 2007 The Santa Ana winds in Southern California are subsiding, allowing firefighters – both military and civilian – to make progress against wildfires that are rampaging through the area, California National Guard officials said.
C-130 airplanes equipped with modular air firefighting systems have flown five sorties and dropped almost 84,000 gallons of fire retardant since California officials activated them yesterday, National Guard Bureau officials said. The aircraft hit the Poomacha fire, northeast of San Diego.
California officials said 18 wildfires have burned 459,877 acres. Three fires burning on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton have consumed 6,200 acres. The base is not being evacuated, but officials have relocated 6,100 personnel and family members to less-threatened places on the base, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “There are currently 600 other (Defense Department)-affiliated people being given shelter at Camp Pendleton,” he said. “These are the people out in the community that are having their homes threatened or have lost their homes.”
Three Navy bases -- Naval Base San Diego, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and Naval Air Station El Centro -- are billeting 2,670 Defense Department evacuees, according to a U.S. Northern Command release. All Defense Department components in the area are being tasked to account for all personnel as part of the declaration of Southern California as a federal disaster area.
There are 214 active duty personnel, 72 Defense Department civilians and 2,492 National Guardsmen engaged in either ground or airborne firefighting or security and relief operations, Whitman said. In addition, the Defense Department is providing 18 fire engines, and about 17,000 California National Guardsmen are available for duty.
Eighteen military helicopters from the California Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force are participating in the firefight, and 14 fixed-wing aircraft, including the C-130s, also are involved.
Air Force U-2 surveillance planes flew some imagery missions in support of the firefighting effort. “Later today, it is expected that we may have a Global Hawk mission that may provide some imagery,” Whitman said. The Global Hawk is an unmanned aerial vehicle that can loiter over areas for long periods of time and broadcast real-time imagery to ground systems.
“Our missions are flown in support of state missions,” Whitman said.