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WA Guard back in business of fighting fires – first time since 2009

Post by Adam Ashton / The News Tribune on Aug. 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm with No Comments »
August 14, 2012 5:32 pm
Photo courtesy of Washington National Guard.

The Washington National Guard today sent two helicopters to join in the effort against the blaze in Kittitas County, marking the first time the state Military Department participated in a wildfire fight since 2009.

Last year, we reported that deployments had depleted the Washington National Guard’s firefighting resources among its aviation crews during the summer. Luckily, it was a wet year and the crews weren’t needed.

Today, the guard sent one four-person crew in a CH-47 Chinook with a 2,000 gallon water bucket and a three-person crew in a UH-60 with a 660 gallon bucket to participate in the firefighting effort. Both helicopters took off from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

So far, the fire has claimed at least 70 structures in central Washington.

“We are committed to protecting the lives and property of our fellow Washingtonians, and we will do everything we can to prevent further destruction,” said Brig. Gen. Bret Daugherty, commander of the Washington National Guard.

The crews belong to the Washington National Guard’s 66th Theater Aviation Command, and they have been trained in firefighting by the U.S. Forest Service.

Last year at this time, one Washington aviation unit had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan and another was serving in Kuwait.

* A previous version of this post said the Washington National Guard last sent crews to fight a wildfire in 2006. Washington National Guard spokesman Capt. Keith Kosik said the last time the Military Department sent a bucket crew to fire in the state was in 2009.

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