National Guard choppers, air tankers to be deployed to help in California firefight

By Tribune News Service on July 10, 2017 12:56 pm

With large wildfires blazing the length of the state, the California National Guard is deploying eight helicopters and two air tankers to help knock back the fires that have forced thousands of people to evacuate and pressed 6,100 firefighters into action.

Acting on a request from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Guard said Monday it was sending three Army Black Hawk and two Air Force Pave Hawk helicopters to assist with fires in Northern California. Another three Black Hawks and two Air Force C-130 tankers are being sent to Southern California.

The helicopters can be used for water drops, medical evacuations and transport, and the air tankers, which are based in the Channel Islands off the coast, can drop 3,000 gallons of fire retardant or water in less than five seconds, the Guard said. One drop can cover a quarter-mile area that is 100 feet wide.

High temperatures near 100 degrees are expected in Northern California on Monday, but firefighters were continuing to make progress in containing the Wall fire in Butte County on the fourth day of fighting the wildland blaze.

As of 7 a.m. Monday, a total of 5,600 acres of kindling-dry grass and trees had burned. The blaze is 35 percent contained — an increase of 10 percent overnight. The number of acres burned did not rise overnight.

Cause of the fire is under investigation as firefighters continue to build lines around the blaze with shovels and bulldozers. From the air, nine helicopters are dousing hot spots with water while air tankers dump flame retardant.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high temperature of 100 degrees Monday, but winds are expected to be light.

Damage-evaluation teams will be inspecting burned areas where homes have been turned to cinder. Seventeen structures have been destroyed, another five damaged.

The Wall fire broke out Friday afternoon along Chinese Wall Road north of the small town of Bangor, which is southeast of Oroville. Since then, Cal Fire has attacked the blaze with a small army of personnel, roughly 1,600 state and local firefighters.

A total of 4,000 people have been evacuated. An evacuation center has been set up at the Church of the Nazarene, 2238 Monte Vista Ave., Oroville.

Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed a state of emergency for Butte County on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Winters Fire in Yolo County, which was the focus of Cal Fire attention late last week, is mostly contained. The fire, which broke out Thursday afternoon southwest of Winters is reported to have burned 2,269 acres and is 90 percent contained.