WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 24, 2007) -- The National Weather Service said this morning the Santa Ana winds that are fanning the fires in southern California should die down by Thursday, but already nearly two-dozen fires have burned more than 400,000 acres from Mexico to north of Los Angeles. CNN reports that as many as 950,000 people have been evacuated, including more than 4,000 servicemembers from bases in the area.

The California National Guard was directed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make 1,500 Guardmembers available to support efforts to fight the wildfires that are ravaging the drought-stricken southern part of the state.

The Guardmembers included 200 troops who are patrolling the California-Mexico border as part of Operation Jump Start, the mission to keep illegal aliens from entering the United States.

More than 200 Guardmembers were sent to help with San Diego civilian evacuations, California Guard officials reported. One hundred Guard troops were sent to Qualcomm Stadium, home of the San Diego Chargers, and another 100 were dispatched to the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

"It is a tragic time for California. I saw the tremendous devastation caused by these fires firsthand today, and I want to commend all of the brave firefighters that have been battling the blazes around our state. They have done an extraordinary job," Gov. Schwarzenegger said.

"We have the best trained, the best equipped and the most experienced firefighters in the world, and I am committed to making all of the state's resources available to them to get these fires under control," the California governor added. "That is why I have declared a state of emergency and directed the National Guard to support the firefighters in the Southern California."

California Guardmembers are experienced in executing firefighting missions and in May conducted an annual three-day, large-scale wildfire training exercise near Fresno with civilian firefighters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.

The California Guard has more than 17,000 Soldiers and Airmen available to the governor. Some 34,000 are available in the western region, and nationally, 390,000 Guardmembers are available, the National Guard Bureau reported.

Page last updated Tue October 23rd, 2007 at 00:00