SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — From across the country, National Guard contingents and firefighters were answering California’s call for help in battling a historic outbreak of wildfires.
Currently, three of the state’s four largest wildfire outbreaks in history are still raging across California. The state’s largest in history — the August Complex, burning in mountainous, heavily-wooded terrain in five Northern California counties — had grown to 491,239 acres by Saturday morning with 23 percent containment.
Two hundred thirty-three soldiers from the 14th Brigade Engineer Battalion based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state joined the firefight nearly a week ago.
The SCU Lightning Complex fire was still burning in Santa Clara County. It is the state’s third largest wildfire outbreak in history and as of Saturday was at 396,624 acres and was 98 percent contained.
The LNU Lightning Complex fire was still burning in Wine Country. It is the state’s fourth largest wildfire outbreak in history and was at 363,220 acres and was 95 percent contained.
Elsewhere, the North Complex — including the deadly Bear Fire — was at 252,365 acres and was 21 percent contained while the Creek Fire — burning the drought and bark beetle ravaged Sierra forest — was at 196,667 acres and just 6 percent contained.
“Over 14,800 firefighters are engage currently in firefighting activity throughout the state of California,” said Cal Fire PIO Steve Kaufmann at a Friday night briefing. “There are currently 28 major fires or complexes across the state of California. 24 new fires since last night. We are still holding at 2.6 million acres burned since Aug 15th.”
A steady stream of firefighters from across the country and Canada and Israel have joined the firefight since late August. Unfortunately, Diana Jones — a firefighter from Texas — was killed battling the August Complex fire.
On Friday, a new wave of reinforcements began to arrive to further bolster the firelines.
The Arizona National Guard has sent three helicopters and 30 soldiers. The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters departed Friday from the Guard’s base in Phoenix.
Officials said the deployment was expected to last about two weeks. The helicopters are equipped to fight wildfires and their crews are certified in wildfire response.
The Wisconsin National Guard also sent a pair of Black Hawk helicopters and about 15 soldiers on Friday. The Wisconsin troops will work with the California National Guard and will receive their specific assignments when they reach the state.
The Wisconsin soldiers and aircraft are from the Madison-based 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment.
Meanwhile, a contingent of firefighters and equipment from New Jersey was slated to arrive on Saturday to join the fight.
At a news conference earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom voice his gratitude for the mutual aid coming from outside the state.
“We had 10 individual firefighters come from Israel last week,” he said. “I had the privilege of talking to the prime minister of Canada about the efforts they’re making to help support the state of California in terms of the mutual aid coming from Canada. It’s just a remarkable moment that gives me a sense of optimism at a time when I know we’re filled with fear, so many of us with anxiety about the world we’re living in this state.”