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