Saturday, June 28, 2008

Marines, CH-46Es deploy for California fires

By Gidget Fuentes - Times staff
Posted : Friday Jun 27, 2008 21:07:54 EDT

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Four Marine Corps CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters left the flight line at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego on Friday for a short deployment to help fight wildfires in northern California.

The medium-lift helicopters and personnel will be staged at Lemoore Naval Air Station, in California’s central valley, for a deployment expected to last up to 30 days, Miramar officials said Friday.

“Right now, we’re just filling in the request and sending up the birds and the crews,” said Maj. Jay Delarosa, a spokesman with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Miramar.

Each of the helicopters are equipped with BAMBI water buckets.

The air support was requested by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and was forwarded to U.S. Northern Command, which is providing liaisons and coordinators, military personnel and aircraft to the National Inter-Agency Fire Center in Boise.

NIFC “will direct them, and that’s done in coordination with the on-scene commanders at their discretion ... working in support with wherever they need them,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Gary Ross, a NorthCom spokesman at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

The helicopters are expected to join in soon with the firefighting efforts in California, where 32 significant fires had burned more than 271,000 acres as of Friday. Lightning is blamed for sparking many of the fires,

Along with the Marines, NorthCom officials said Friday they are sending two aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, from the Wyoming National Guard’s 153rd Air Wing.

Those aircraft will join four other MAFFS-capable C-130H aircraft from the Air Force Reserve and North Carolina National Guard’s 145th Air Wing and are already deployed to assist with the firefighting efforts. Each aircraft is equipped with a tank holding 3,000 gallons of flame retardant.

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