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National Guard troops battle Western wildfires

A Michigan Army National Guard UH-60 Black Haw...

A Michigan Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter dips a Bambi Bucket into a lake for water to fight a wildfire near Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Mich., on Aug. 8, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Helen Miller, U.S. Army. http://www.army.mil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau Public Affairs

6/13/2012 – ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) — Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen from five states are working alongside civilian first responders as they continue to battle wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico.

New Mexico Army National Guard members are still battling the Little Bear wildfire near Ruidoso, N.M., which is approximately 35 percent contained, said Guard officials.

The number of New Mexico Guard members has increased from 117 to approximately 218 since June 11. The New Mexico Guard has deployed three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, two equipped with Bambi buckets and one on standby for medical evacuations.

Guard members there are also performing roving walking patrols, setting up traffic control points, and handing out information to residents who could be affected by the wildfire, officials said.

In Colorado, Guard members there are also continuing to battle the High Peak wildfire near Fort Collins, said officials.

There are approximately 90 Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen providing support and performing missions such as communication support, refueling, and security.

Additionally, the Colorado National Guard has deployed UH-60s equipped with Bambi buckets, said officials, who stated the fire has destroyed approximately 46,600 acres.

The Kansas National Guard and Nebraska National Guard are also assisting with wildfire suppression in Colorado, each sending one UH-60 equipped with a Bambi bucket and a crew of nine and four Soldiers respectively.

Wildfire suppression operations in Wyoming have concluded in Guernsey State Park, said Guard officials there. Currently, two Wyoming Air National Guard members are working in the communications center augmenting civilian first responders.

Wyoming is also scheduled to send one UH-60 equipped with a Bambi bucket, and a crew of four, to assist with the Colorado wildfires, officials said.

National Guard units are currently battling wildfires in parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, deploying approximately 180 Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen on State Active Duty to assist local civilian first responders.

In Colorado, Army National Guard members were assisting firefighting efforts at the High Park fire in Larimer County with two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with Bambi buckets and a total of eight personnel on State Active Duty as of 8:00 a.m. June 11, said a report.

Colorado Guard members were also providing a fuel truck to support the wildfire mission, and manpower to the Incident Command Team headquartered at the Colorado National Guard’s Fort Collins Readiness Center.

“We as members of the National Guard see it fit to always be available and ready to support those in need at the request of the governor,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Edwards, the adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard. “It’s our highest priority to respond immediately in times of need. We are neighbors helping neighbors. That’s why we serve.”

Guard members in New Mexico are providing support to what has become the largest wildfire in the history of the state, affecting approximately 263,500 acres near Reserve, N.M. according to officials there.

The New Mexico National Guard was providing approximately 117 personnel as of 8:00 a.m., as well as two UH-60s equipped with hoists for medical evacuation support, two M1083 Standard Cargo Trucks, and 11 Humvees with personnel providing roving patrols and establishing checkpoints, said a report.

In Wyoming, approximately 46 Guard members were providing wildfire suppression support as of 3:00 p.m. EDT June 11. The Wyoming National Guard is also providing fire trucks, communications equipment and three UH-60s equipped with 660-gallon Bambi buckets on site, said Guard officials there.

“We are glad we are able to assist in this firefighting effort,” said Army Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, the adjutant general of the Wyoming National Guard. “The National Guard’s role is to assist when called by the governor and we are proud to have this role in protecting Wyoming’s residents and its natural assets.”


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