California National Guard soldiers completed fire hand crew training Sept. 6 at Camp Roberts and are heading out to the Salmon-August Complex Fire near Etna, the Mission Fire near Oakhurst and wherever else they’re needed.
Fires ravaging thousands of acres are producing acrid smoke and spreading destruction not only in California, but also in Montana, Oregon and Washington.
About 350 California Guard soldiers took part in the training on the hot hills of Camp Roberts, led by about 50 experienced firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CAL FIRE.
The soldiers were divided into 12 hand crews and led through six stations, where they practiced digging trenches, chopping logs and using specialized tools to cut fire lines.
The troops reported to their armories Sept. 1 and had been training since then. They’re expected to be out on the fire lines supporting CAL FIRE firefighters for the rest of September.
The California National Guard was busy assisting Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and now the 129th Rescue Wing, based in Silicon Valley, will be heading to Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma, which is sweeping through the Caribbean heading toward Florida.
The wing plans to deploy about 100 of its members this week, including pararescuemen, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. They plan to operate two HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and three MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft out of Hurlburt Field in the Florida panhandle, the news report said.
The 129th was credited with 113 saves while operating in Texas.
About 400 soldiers are working with state fire workers on the California fire lines. In addition, six Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and two C-130J Air National Guard air tanker craft are helping to fight fires.
In Montana, nearly 400 troops are fighting several fires, including the Alice Creer Fire, McCully Fire, Sapphire the Complex and Rice Ridge fires, the Meyers Fire and the Lolo Peak Fire. In sweltering Oregon, more than 430 troops are battling flames in Whitewater, High Cascades Complex and the Checo Bar Fire. They were activated Aug. 4.