Watch a C-130 Get Up Close And Personal With California's Massive Wildfire


Since the Carr Fire was first reported to authorities on July 23, its flames have lapped across nearly 100,000 acres of California, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents and threatening hundreds of buildings. Two firefighters, along with several civilians, have already lost their lives; thus far, the Carr Fire is only 20% contained.

That's where the California National Guard comes in. The Cal Guard currently has some 800 soldiers and airmen hard at work backing up local authorities in their war against the flames.

Service members from the Cal Guard are currently a sort of aerial war against the wildfire.

The aircraft are loosing off payloads of fire retardant from C-130 Hercules aircraft, rather than the bombs it usually hauls in the skies above Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Army, the Cal Guard has deployed  CH-47 Chinooks and HH-60 Black Hawks with the Air National Guard's 195th Airlift Wing to serve as eyes in the sky.

California National Guard/Senior Airman Crystal Housman

A UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the California Army National Guard takes off from Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, California, on Saturday morning, July 28, 2018, to support firefighting efforts in Northern California. The helicopter is painted with pink markings and numbers to increase its visibility in smoky conditions upon arrival to the fire areas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

The aircrews are tasked with providing state authorities with real-time intelligence to state and local emergency managers; the effort includes at least one MQ-9 reaper drone whose photographs of the fire are distributed to firefighters on the ground daily.

California National Guard/Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

U.S. Air Force Maj. Nicholas Edwards, an intelligence analyst manager with the California Air National Guard’s 195th Air Base Wing, updates leaders from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) on the Carr Fire in Shasta County, California. Edwards leads a team that gives accurate information CAL FIRE uses to battle the Carr Fire that intensified to nearly 90,000 burned acres in about a week. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

"They bring to the table a key part of our mission," CAL FIRE's Capt. Robert DeCamp said in an Army statement. "This is one fire that's very unpredictable, but we can track it with the capabilities the Guard provides us."

Elsewhere, the 270th and 870th Military Police units are working around the clock to keep civilians away from the Carr Fire and assist local law enforcement in evacuations.

California National Guard/Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

Sgt. Jesus Valencia and Spc. Cameron Hodges of the California Army National Guard’s 270th Military Police Company, 185th Military Police Battalion, 49th Military Police Brigade, secure a checkpoint July 29 at the Keswick Dam in Redding, California, shortly after the Carr Fire passed through the area. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

According to the Army, the 578th Engineer Battalion activated a company solely to help haul bulldozers and other heavy equipment into the state to help stop the spread of the flames.

California National Guard/Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

U.S. Army Spc. Kia Xiong, front, of the California Army National Guard’s Bravo Company, 126th Aviation Battalion, guides a 2,000-gallon water bucket into a CH-47 Chinook July 30 at the Shasta District Fairgrounds, Anderson, California, where Cal Guard’s land and air assets were supporting emergency services during the treacherous Carr Fire. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

"We're so glad the military's here. We're comfortable knowing our homes and businesses are safe," one California evacuee told the Army as he was fleeing the coming flames. "All I know is this fire is too big to control. Everyone's doing what they can."

Finally, more than 500 California National Guardsmen from the 143rd Infantry Regiment are preparing to deploy behind the local firefighters on the front lines of the blaze.

California National Guard/Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

California Army National Guardsmen from Bravo Company, 126th Aviation Battalion, work with Warren Giacomni of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to secure a 2,000-gallon water bucket July 29 at the Shasta District Fairgrounds. Cal Guard’s air assets are on mission alert to fight the Carr Fire from above. Shown: U.S. Army Spc. Kia Xiong, Sgt. 1st Class Douglas King, Spc. Gentry So’oalo, Capt. Ben Bowman and Giacomni. The team loaded the bucket onto their CH047 Chinook. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)

The infantry and artillerymen will "work areas already burned by the Carr Fire, extinguishing hot spots to prevent fire flare-ups," according to Army.


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"As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we're always looking to optimize the force," Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. "Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here."

"I'm confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country," Miller continued.

The New York Times was first to report that the U.S. military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.

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"We've always said, that it'll be conditions based, but we're confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will," Esper said while enroute to Afghanistan.

So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. official said.

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