SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - Governor Newsom called on the California National Guard to assist in the battle against the wildfires that are raging across the state, two of which quickly made their way up the list of largest wildfires in state history.
A total of 400 members of the 40th Infantry Division responded to the call of duty and gathered to train at Camp Roberts with CAL FIRE on Friday.
The National Guard broke down exactly how they were assisting. Their incoming forces include Soldiers and Airmen as well as Aircraft which include seven helicopters with water buckets (four Blackhawks, two Chinooks, one Lakota), two MAFFS-equipped C-130s capable of dropping 3,000 gallons of retardant in five seconds, and two MQ-9 drones. The drones will be able to provide fire mapping and damage assessment real-time to first responders.
The soldiers received more than 270 sets of protective gear from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection on Sunday as they begin training as firefighter hand crews.
Crews trained through the weekend in firefighting with their new gear.
These efforts come just as the White House approved a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for California as wildfires statewide devastate over 1 million acres of land.
The disaster declaration helps by freeing up funds for supporting those impacted by the fires and those on the frontlines.
Of the over 500 fires burning across the state, two stand out as excessively large. The LNU Lightning Complex and the SCU Lightning Complex fires, became respectively the second- and third-largest wildfires in recent state history by size, according to Cal Fire records. Both fires were sparked by lightning strikes during a thunderstorm that passed through the Bay Area earlier this month.
As of Sunday, both fires have surpassed 300,000 acres and are continuing to spread.
Around 14,000 firefighters are responding to the blazes including 96% of all of CAL FIRE’s engines.