California National Guard helicopters ready to join firefight in Northern California |

California National Guard helicopters ready to join firefight in Northern California

As dozens of wildfires threaten several Northern California communities, and hot temperatures and dry lightning increase the risk of more fires in communities where vegetation is already dry due to exceptional to extreme drought conditions, the governor’s Office of Emergency Services has tasked the California National Guard to activate specially trained helicopter units to assist local, state and federal fire agencies.

The helicopters are a combination of 14 UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters and three LUH-72 Lakota helicopters. The crews and assets from the California Army National Guard were activated under the direction of Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin at the request of Cal OES on behalf of Cal Fire.

The CNG helicopters and crews, which were deployed from around the state, will launch from Mather Army Aviation Support Facility and other locations to support Cal Fire in battling wildfires across Northern California. The Black Hawks and Chinooks are equipped respectively with 660-gallon and 2,000-gallon water buckets to fight the flames.

The Black Hawks also are capable of functioning in a med-evac capacity as well, with an onboard hoist for extracting injured personnel from rugged terrain.

The Lakota will serve as an observation platform, capable of streaming near real-time video and thermal imagery of the fires to incident commanders on the ground.

The CNG helicopter crews will be working in coordination with the Cal Fire and local firefighting crews in accordance with the Statewide Mutual Aid System that cuts across military, state and regional levels.

In 2013, California Army and Air National Guard aircraft dropped nearly 1.5 million gallons of retardant and water during nearly 1,500 aerial drops, predominantly across California and the Western states.

In related fire news, the Sierra County Board of Supervisors has proclaimed a state of emergency due to fire severity conditions.

On July 22, the Sierra County supervisors also adopted a proclamation requesting all 22 counties that encompass the Sierra Nevada adopt a similar resolution by Aug. 15.

This is a part of a program intended to reduce wildland severity conditions.

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