Members of IL National Guard fly to California to aid in wildfire response

State News

PEORIA, Ill. (WCIA) — Six Illinois National Guard soldiers deployed to California Saturday morning to aid in efforts to battle wildfires in Northern California.

The team will spend two weeks in California. They flew in a CH-47F Chinook, a heavy-lift helicopter, carrying a Bambi Bucket which can hold 2,000 gallons of water.

“This spring, California Governor Gavin Newsom came to our state’s aid by loaning Illinois 100 ventilators in our time of need, and right now we have an opportunity to return the favor,” Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement released Friday. “California first responders are not only battling wildfires, they’re doing so in a COVID environment under the threat of severe heat and rolling blackouts.  Our team of Illinois National Guard airmen will be coming in to provide additional manpower and equipment to help tackle this disaster.  Our airmen are well-trained for these types of missions and will be a valuable resource for the Golden State.”  

Captain Charles Auer said soldiers will do synchronization training before responding to the fires. He said the mission adds to the importance of supporting one another nationwide.

“We always talk about – in kind of those briefs – it’s always been supporting your community,” Auer said. “It’s always been the big push, but really, it’s response to the nation. So, you have a federal and you have a domestic mission. That domestic mission doesn’t necessarily stay here at the home town especially when you have a national asset like a CH-47 that has to go anywhere at a moment’s notice.”

The state of California is funding the deployments. Crews are set to arrive in the Golden State early this week.

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