Guard Patrols Wildfire Area
A Soldier from the California Army National Guard patrols in a neighborhood where buildings and vehicles were destroyed by wildfires in Valley Center, Calif., Oct. 25. More than 1,500 Guard troops are assisting civilian authorities.

CORONADO, Calif. (Army News Service, Oct. 26, 2007) Aca,!" Before Mike Maury could thank the firefighters who he thought had prevented his house from going up in flames, he thanked the California National Guard for protecting it from looters.

When a convoy of Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry (Light) approached his home on Cabella Drive in the Carmel Mountain area north of San Diego, Maury was overcome with gratitude, going from Humvee to Humvee shaking hand after hand; his wife other family members and neighbors doing the same.

It was about mid-day on Oct. 25, and just minutes earlier Maury and fellow residents had been allowed to return to their neighborhood. Soldiers from the California Guard were there to provide order.

Some residents returned to find their homes untouched by the wildfires that had scorched the area this week. Others found only brick chimneys and piles of ashes.

Aca,!A"We got out with the clothing on our back,Aca,!A? said Mr. Maury, 59, with his wife Elma at his side. This 28-year resident said that a wooden overhang above the front door of his 2,000 square foot house was on fire when he left it Monday. When he returned three days later, he didnAca,!a,,ct know if heAca,!a,,cd still have a house. Luckily, this former Illinois National Guard member did have a house. Unfortunately, in a cul-de-sac just 100 meters away, charred remains were all that was left of four homes.

This sporadic destruction was what Soldiers witnessed as they convoyed along curving, hilly roads in this upscale neighborhood: a house untouched while the one next to it was a pile of charcoal.

The SoldiersAca,!a,,c job, according to the patrol leader, Capt. Michael Riley, was to ensure that Aca,!A"the right people are getting back in their houses.Aca,!A? Not looters or conmen posing as contractors.

Capt. RileyAca,!a,,cs men worked alongside members of the San Diego Police Department as the barricades were removed and anxious residents poured back in. In the hours and days prior to the opening, troops from the 184th had stood guard at security checkpoints, allowing only first responders into the area.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger early this week directed that 1,500 California Guardmembers be made available for wildfire-fighting duty.

Aca,!A"I got the call on Monday at 1:05 a.m. and by 1:10 we were moving,Aca,!A? said Lt. Col. Dirk Levy, commander of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry (Light). Aca,!A"Within 20 hours we had Soldiers on the ground.Aca,!A?

When Lt. Col. Levy arrived at this staging area, a barren area on the north side Montgomery Airfield near San Diego, smoke from the fires to the east was pouring down from the hills.

Aca,!A"I had to put my face in my sleeping bag the first night because the smoke was so bad,Aca,!A? Lt. Col. Levy said. He commanded troops over a huge area, from San Diego to the Mexican border. Levy explained that the majority of the 400 troops are combat veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lt. Col. Levy explained his unitAca,!a,,cs mission: Aca,!A"ThereAca,!a,,cs less armed patrolling here than Katrina. ItAca,!a,,cs more of a reassuring the public.Aca,!A?

The 184th is attached to the California Army GuardAca,!a,,cs 40th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

(Master Sgt. Greg Rudl writes for the National Guard Bureau.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16