REDDING, Calif. --This is an old, too familiar scene for the California Army National Guard's 270th Military Police Company.
The Sacramento-based unit is back on the state battlefield helping enforce law and order in the Carr Fire. Dozens of Soldiers are manning traffic points, diverting non-emergency vehicles in restricted areas. Others are serving as security forces at evacuation centers or response sites, making sure order is intact.
This is nothing new for Cal Guard's most relied unit -- with respect to Cal Guard's air assets, which are always actively engaged every fire season. But for the 270th, it's been Cal Guard's busiest ground force for the past nine months due to all the raging wildfires igniting California.
"Oh yes, they're being called upon a lot," said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Abraham Hinojosa, command sergeant major of the 185th Military Police Battalion that overseas the 270th's operation. "One, it's their location. Two, they're trained. They're always up on their training certifications. Their numbers are always good and that makes them easy to rely on."
Since the Tubbs Fire and Nuns Fire in Sonoma County, California, last October, it's been non-stop for the 270th as far as state activation. The unit provided law and order after the Tubbs Fire became California's most destructive wildfire all-time, destroying more than 5,600 structures.
After the Tubbs Fire came the Thomas Fire in December 2017. The 270th served the same purpose in the Santa Barbara-Ventura County blaze that scorched about 282,000 acres, becoming California's largest wildfire in history.
"We utilized those 17 days (in the Tubbs Fire) to conduct extensive training in order to meet many of our yearly objectives as well as develop the company tactical (standard operating procedure) that followed us into subsequent activations," said Capt. Brock Young, 270th commander. "On those activations, we continued to refine our processes, fixing holes in training, administration, and equipment readiness. We zeroed in on those small things M-Day Soldiers and leaders typically don't have the time to focus on, things like team building, leader development and extensive maintenance on our vehicles."
The Thomas Fire also destroyed more than 1,000 structures.
In early July the 270th was activated for the Klamathon Fire in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border. It was a short mission as the blaze burned 38,000 acres, but hundreds of homes were threatened, thus the need for the 270th to help keep order.
And that leads to the current Carr Fire in Shasta County. The MPs are in familiar territory, helping local law enforcement keeping areas safe. Tens of thousands of Redding, California, residents evacuated their homes and are still not permitted to return. While Soldiers monitor traffic intersections, civilian authorities can respond to other needs.
"The 270th has a core of solid, dedicated and determined Soldiers who place the needs of the State mission above their own hardships," said Young. "The unit has never failed to accomplish its directed mission, although sometimes we do it with fewer Soldiers than we'd like to have. Emergency activations are always difficult and place heavy burdens on the Soldier. Family, childcare issues, work, civilian and military schools, these all have an effect when a Soldier is activated and sent somewhere."
The fire missions aren't all that keeps the 270th active. In February 2017, the Oroville Dam situation arose and the unit was activated to help in the evacuation of 188,000 Butte County, California, locals.
"The 270th is the quick response force (QRF) for Northern California," Hinojosa added. "They have a certain amount of hours to get a certain amount of their strength up and gone. They always do that."
"As the Northern California QRF, the 270th has been officially designated as the "Go To, Send First" unit," Young said. "In each and every activation from Oroville … to Redding, the 270th has demonstrated that when called, we are professional Soldiers who get the job done."
The Carr Fire has scorched more than 110,000 acres, making it one of California's Top 40 largest wildfires in history.