As another season of dangerous wildfires swept across the Pacific Northwest and resources were stretched to their limit, Governor Locke once again turned to the men and women of the Washington National Guard. Follow Operation Wildfire 2001 through the stories of these citizen soldiers.
These stories were provided by the Guardsmen of the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment and our staff photojournalists. For the latest emergency information, please visit the Washington State Emergency Management Division's website.
On the 15th of August 2001, Governor Locke issued a proclamation authorizing the mobilization of Washington National Guard personnel and equipment in support of the fire fighting efforts in Eastern Washington. The first responders to this proclamation were the Guardsmen who man our Joint Operations Center (JOC) on Camp Murray.
Helicopters are an effective firefighting weapon in the rugged hills of the Pacific Northwest. Frequently the Guardsmen of the Washington Army National Guard's 66th Aviation Brigade, headquartered on Fort Lewis, Tacoma WA, are called upon to provide this support.
The 66th Aviation Brigade also flew critical search & rescue missions. In this role they employed their Blackhawks (right) and Kiowa helicopters. Their first job was to locate 25 hikers lost in the Rex Fire Complex, near Lake Chelan.
PFC Josh Corsa was among the first of the Guardsmen to arrive at the fire line. He provides this overview of the first days of Guard deployment and activities at the Virginia Lake Complex, the location of three raging fires - the Goose Lake, Virginia Lake and St. Mary's fires.
Trucks to move fire fighters and their equipment to the fire line. Trucks to move food, water and medical supplies. Big, all-wheel drive trucks capable of traversing the rugged, broken ground where the wildfires were burning out of control. Trucks and Guardsmen to drive and maintain them.
Airmen from the Washington National Guards 141st Air Refueling Wing recently completed their mission to provide support for firefighters and soldiers combating the rash of wildfires that has broken out across Central and Eastern Washington.
Fire fighter training was conducted on Aug 23-25 on Camp Murray, for 300 soldiers from the 96th Brigade (Troop Command) and the 81st Infantry Brigade. Guardsmen learned basic fire fighting techniques and developed proficiency in the use of emergency fire survival shelters.
More than 1,000 National Guardsmen have already participated in battling this seasons wildfires. Trucks, helicopters, tents, communications equipment... all in a days work for the Guard. But what really seems to have made it all worthwhile was a few local residents who took the time to simply say "thanks".