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Jul-03-2008 15:29printcommentsVideo

Long, Hard Job Ahead for Wildland Firefighters in California

National Guard forces are working with firefighters in an effort to bring the hundreds of early season fires to a close in this dry state.
Photo courtesy: YouTube

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) - Dry and hot weather conditions across central and northern California are increasing the difficulty for firefighters. They continue to battle hundreds of wildfires sparked by dry lightning and thunderstorms two weeks ago. So far, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports hundreds of fires have been contained, but hundreds of other fires continue to burn and they now threaten a number of communities. forecasters report that the fire in Santa Barbara County is threatening as many as 200 homes in Goleta. Farther to the north, the Big Sur fire has scorched more than 60,000 acres, and it is only 3 percent contained at this point. Among the communities and homes threatened by the wildfires, is the historic town of Big Sur and the town of Lucia. The Associated Press reports that authorities ordered the remaining residents of the communities to leave after the out-of-control wildfire jumped a fire line and threatened more homes Wednesday.

The dip in the jet stream could spark more dry thunderstorms and lightning strikes in parts of northern California into Friday, reports, while triple-digit temperatures continue across parts of the Southland through the weekend.

They say that as the jet stream shifts northward again early next week, the heat in the interior south will again approach extreme levels.

National Guard Fully Engaged in Firefighting Efforts

Crews from the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing report that they have been certified to perform water bucket operations beginning Wednesday, thus becoming the only rescue unit in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard qualified to fight fires.

The aircrews and Pave Hawk helicopters have been on temporary duty here in support of Operation Lightning Strike - the California National Guard's firefighting support mission.

The 129th Rescue Wing, headquartered out of Mountain View, California, is the lead wing for HH-60G Pave Hawk water bucket certification efforts and will lay the groundwork for other combat search and rescue wings nationwide to obtain water bucket certification.

"Joint firefighting operations are analogous to the joint combat search and rescue operating environment our crews will experience in combat environments," said Lt. Col. Daniel Lapostole, 129th Rescue Squadron Commander. "The training value is unmatched."

The crew and aircraft are now certified to utilize the 660 gallon capacity water bucket. The bucket is rigged for use with the cargo hook, and water is released via a contact "pickle" switch. Once the crew receives their orders to perform fire duty, maintainers must remove the internal auxiliary tank, install a radio, release switches, and then paint the aircraft with required markings. The water bucket is attached once on scene. Simultaneously, the crews maintain airborne SAR alert.

The HH-60Gs also have an aerial refueling capability that allows crews to perform longer rescue and firefighting support missions. The aerial refueling is accomplished by the 129th RQW's MC-130P Combat Shadow tankers.

"Airmen from the 129th are motivated and ready to assist their neighbors in fighting the fires here in California," said Col. Amos Bagdasarian, 129th Rescue Wing Commander. "Our search and rescue mission, coupled with the fire bucket certification, adds to the state's broad range of fire fighting capabilities."

California fire roundup:

Butte: The Butte Lightning Complex has burned 20,000 acres and is 35% contained. The Butte Fire Information Number is (530) 538-7826. Click Here for more information.

Mendocino: The Mendocino Lightning Complex has burned 37,970 acres and is 40% contained. The Mendocino Fire Information Number is (707)-467-6426. Click Here for more information.

Shasta & Trinity: The Shasta and Trinity Lightning has burned 53,600 acres and is 43% contained. The Shasta-Trinity Unit Information Number is (530) 225-2510. Click Here for more information.

Lassen, Modoc: The Corral Fire has burned 15,000 acres and is 40% contained. The Lassen-Modoc Fire Information Number is (530) 257-9553. Click Here for more information.

Humboldt: The Humboldt Complex has burned for 1,275 acres. The Paradise Fire is north of Shelter Cove and is 975 acres and 65% contained. The Humboldt-Del Norte Fire Information Number is (707) 726-1225.

Tehama & Glenn: The Tehama-Glenn Lightning Complex has burned 22,907 acres and is 80% contained. The Tehama-Glenn Unit Information Number is (530) 528-5142. Click Here for more information.

Mariposa: The Oliver Fire is located in the Ponderosa Basin and is 2,789 acres and 80% contained. The Oliver Fire Information Number is (209) 966-4784. Click Here for more information.

Lake: The Walker Fire has burned 14,500 acres and is now 100% contained. Click Here for more information.

Napa & Solano: The Wild Fire burned 40,000 acres and is now 100% contained. Click Here for more information.

Santa Clara: The Whitehurst and Hummingbird Fires burned a combined 994 acres and are both now 100% contained. Click Here for more information.

Video of California Fires

This first clip comes to us from The Associated Press and YouTube:


The next clip from YouTube member MENSA150, shows wildfires currently burning in both California and Arizona:

The next clip from YouTube user 302AEG shows Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130H aircraft equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system (MAFFS) are deploying lines of retardant with high levels of precision:

This clip from YouTube user AZTLANBUSTERS, shows more of the fire suppression efforts currently underway in California:

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