News

Charlotte Guard assisting with California wildfires

Charlotte Air National Guard members on Friday continued to assault wildfires raging across California, using air tankers to drop fire retardant across the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Charlotte's 145th Airlift Wing, the only air unit east of the Mississippi equipped to respond, was activated earlier than usual because the season has been the driest on record.

“This year, with the way these fires have started so early and the magnitude of them, we're going to be in it for a while,” said Lt. Col. Rose Dunlap of the Charlotte division. “Our folks are prepared to stay for the long term.”

Of the 3,000 volunteers in the Charlotte Air National Guard, 45 to 50 active members – including certified pilots, ground crews and maintenance officers – have been deployed per rotation. The first Charlotte rotation left June 23 with each rotation lasting eight days.

The Guard assists crews in California struggling to contain hundreds of fires that have burned more than 1,100 square miles and destroyed about 100 homes in the past three weeks. Some 1,460 fires had been contained by Thursday, but more than 320 were still active, authorities said.

Firefighters in the Sierra Nevada foothills thought they had caught a break Friday when strong winds they feared could blow hot embers across fire lines toward thousands of homes did not immediately materialize. The northeast winds forecast for the morning were expected to be similar to those that caused the fire to flare up earlier this week.

Officials have said this unprecedented fire season, plagued by drought and high temperatures, has seen the most fires burning at any one time in recorded California history. Most of the blazes began during a massive June 21 lightning storm that sparked 800 wildfires across Northern California.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered an additional 2,000 National Guard troops to help firefighting efforts across the state. President Bush planned a visit next week.

The Charlotte squadron, along with divisions from Colorado, Wyoming and California, serves as the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group. The 302nd AEG, comprised of crews and aircrafts from the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, provides military air support to combat the fire.

Other government and civilian tankers also work with the AEG under the direction of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the U.S. Forest Services.

Lead planes flown by the Bureau of Land Management coordinate with the C-130s along with the firefighters on the ground to set up the target points for the retardant drops. Since June 23, roughly 650,000 gallons of retardant have been released.

“Fighting a wildfire is an incredibly challenging and demanding situation for everyone involved,” said Major Allan Cecil of the Charlotte Guard. “When you're out there, you're not only combating the heat, but you're also filled with adrenaline that drives you to a high state of constant urgency. But it is amazing how choreographed and orchestrated it all is.” AP contributed.

Charlotte Air National Guard members on Friday continued to assault wildfires raging across California, using air tankers to drop fire retardant across the Sierra Nevada foothills.

Charlotte's 145th Airlift Wing, the only air unit east of the Mississippi equipped to respond, was activated earlier than usual because the season has been the driest on record.

“This year, with the way these fires have started so early and the magnitude of them, we're going to be in it for a while,” said Lt. Col. Rose Dunlap of the Charlotte division. “Our folks are prepared to stay for the long term.”

Of the 3,000 volunteers in the Charlotte Air National Guard, 45 to 50 active members – including certified pilots, ground crews and maintenance officers – have been deployed per rotation. The first Charlotte rotation left June 23 with each rotation lasting eight days.

The Guard assists crews in California struggling to contain hundreds of fires that have burned more than 1,100 square miles and destroyed about 100 homes in the past three weeks. Some 1,460 fires had been contained by Thursday, but more than 320 were still active, authorities said.

Firefighters in the Sierra Nevada foothills thought they had caught a break Friday when strong winds they feared could blow hot embers across fire lines toward thousands of homes did not immediately materialize. The northeast winds forecast for the morning were expected to be similar to those that caused the fire to flare up earlier this week.

Officials have said this unprecedented fire season, plagued by drought and high temperatures, has seen the most fires burning at any one time in recorded California history. Most of the blazes began during a massive June 21 lightning storm that sparked 800 wildfires across Northern California.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered an additional 2,000 National Guard troops to help firefighting efforts across the state. President Bush planned a visit next week.

The Charlotte squadron, along with divisions from Colorado, Wyoming and California, serves as the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group. The 302nd AEG, comprised of crews and aircrafts from the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Marine Corps and Navy, provides military air support to combat the fire.

Other government and civilian tankers also work with the AEG under the direction of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the U.S. Forest Services.

Lead planes flown by the Bureau of Land Management coordinate with the C-130s along with the firefighters on the ground to set up the target points for the retardant drops. Since June 23, roughly 650,000 gallons of retardant have been released.

“Fighting a wildfire is an incredibly challenging and demanding situation for everyone involved,” said Major Allan Cecil of the Charlotte Guard. “When you're out there, you're not only combating the heat, but you're also filled with adrenaline that drives you to a high state of constant urgency. But it is amazing how choreographed and orchestrated it all is.” AP contributed.

  Comments