69th Public Affairs Detachment
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The California Army National Guard has been working with local and state first responders to suppress wildfires in the Placer County area.
Aircrews of the California Army Guard are using four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to assist the California Department of Forest and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) by dropping thousands of gallons of water on the fire. Meanwhile, crews aboard one California Air National Guard HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter have been providing medical evacuation support.
As of July 15, 20 percent of the fire, which started July 11, has been contained and more than 2,250 acres have burned as of Sunday evening, with one home destroyed.
California Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. activated the California Guard July 13 to assist Cal Fire efforts to suppress the fire.
“The California Army National Guard brings a specialized set of skills, assets and personnel to Robbers that allows us to focus on fighting the fire,” said Army 1st Lt. Matthew Miklos, a platoon leader and pilot with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment (General Support).
“We’ve had a lasting relationship with Cal Fire,” said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Brockly, operations officer and senior instructor pilot. “We are at Cal Fire’s beck and call. Once we receive a call from them, we have our birds in the air in five to 10 minutes.”
Cal Fire personnel have been appreciative of the California Guard as well.
“The California Army National Guard Soldiers are trained very well and it feels really good that they’re focused on fulfilling the mission,” said David Ito, a Cal Fire captain and agency aviation military liaison. “They’re an outstanding resource for the citizens of California and Cal Fire.”
The helicopter crews are putting in 14-hour duty days, with eight of those hours in the sky.
The Robbers fire is hitting home for some who are helping out in the effort.
“I grew up in the hills of Placerville and worked for Auburn State Park, so I’m honored to be a part of this,” said Miklos. “It’s pretty awesome to get to help out your neighbors.”
Before the start of the fire season, the California Army National Guard and Cal Fire conducted a range of training from bucket drops to radio communications, for new and current team members, said Brockly. A requirement for pilots is 500 hours of aircraft commander time.
“The stress that’s involved in flying in combat translates into fighting fires as most pilots have been in combat at least once or twice,” said Brockly.
“You train so much that it’s instinctive, it’s muscle memory, and that’s a good feeling,” said Miklos.
But for many of the California Guard members it simply comes back to serving.
“The Robbers fire is why we joined the Guard,” said Brockly. “It gives us the opportunity to serve our own country and state.”