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Washington National Guard Troops And Pilots Called In For Wildfire Duty

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Washington National Guard
Two Washington National Guard Blackhawk choppers like this one have been drafted for wildfire fighting duty.

The military is being called in to help corral one of the numerous large wildfires burning in the Northwest.

Major General Bret Daugherty, the commander of the Washington National Guard, said he could see this coming as early as January of this year. Daugherty said hundreds of citizen soldiers learned basic firefighting during their annual training in Yakima in June.

"We said, 'Boy, we really need to redouble our efforts and make sure we have everybody trained.' Because we did anticipate this,” he said. “California is on fire. Oregon is on fire. We are on fire. There are only so many assets to go around.”

Daugherty said the National Guard mobilized two Blackhawk helicopter crews plus five hand crews with extra training to fight fire on the ground.

The more than 120 soldiers and pilots are being deployed to the Cougar Creek wildfire. That has burned through 18,000 acres on the flanks of Mount Adams north of Glenwood, Washington.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.