By Candis OlmsteadJuly 5, 2019
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Alaska National Guard is assisting local and state authorities with the response to three fires in Alaska today, including the Shovel Creek Fire near Fairbanks, the lower hillside Anchorage wildfire, and the Montana Creek area fire south of Talkeetna.
"Providing emergency response to natural disasters is one of the key missions that we train for," said Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "We have the equipment, people, and experience, and we are ready to assist as needed when called upon."
Two Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and aircrew from 1st Battalion,297th 207th Aviation were performing water bucket drops over the Montana Creek Fire July 4 and the unit is prepping crews on-call for additional response in Anchorage, as the fire there may need additional suppression reinforcement.
More than 20 Soldiers from the Army Guard's 297th Military Police Company, Rear Detachment, and five high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles are providing traffic management and access control for the Shovel Creek Fire. They began operations July 1 to support evacuation and fire suppression efforts 20 miles northwest of Fairbanks in the vicinity of Murphy Dome.
"Soldiers are manning traffic control positions 24/7," said Capt. Ralph Harris, 297th Military Police Company commander. "Some folks were asked to leave their homes, but had to return to their homes first to prepare; so our MPs check them in and out for accountability and to ensure people are aware of the unsafe roads for travel."
Two Black Hawks dropped 74 buckets of water--about 66 thousand gallons--over the Anchorage fire on July 2 in less than two hours. They also worked the Montana Creek fire the night of July 3, helping to save structures and property.
"'This we'll defend' is a motto I adhere to as a great way to describe our federal, state and domestic response operations," said Saxe. "And it couldn't feel more true than on Independence Day, helping our neighbors and citizens as we celebrate our freedom."