Guard deploys troops, choppers to fire lines

Gov. Jay Inslee flying to Eastern Washington Friday for briefing from fire command staff

Aviators activate to battle Washington wildfires

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Washington National Guard has deployed 50 personnel and six choppers to support firefighting efforts in Central Washington.

As of Friday morning, the Guard has deployed four UH-60 Black Hawks and two CH-47 Chinooks from 1-168 General Support Aviation Battalion to the fire.

Two choppers flew out Wednesday while the rest flew out on Thursday and Friday the last 24 hours. The aircraft are providing aerial support, dropping water on the fire lines. So far the choppers have dropped a combined 84,000 gallons of water on the fires.

The 50 personnel that were deployed over the last three days include the flight crews and ground support personnel for the helicopters.

More personnel, who are currently participating in annual training maneuvers at the Yakima Training Center, are standing by to deploy if requested. That could include 100 personnel who are red card certified, which means they have received wildfire training.

"These Soldiers on standby have received what we call Red Card training," said Major General Bret Daugherty, the state's adjutant general and Commander of the Washington National Guard.

"That means they have unique skills in fighting fires, and have the ability to immediately step in and be effective in battling the blaze. They are ready to support this mission, and provide some much needed relief for the fire crews who have worked around the clock battling fast-spreading flames, fatigue and hot temperatures."

The decision to activate and send Guard troops to fight the fires came after a disaster declaration signed earlier this week by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.

Meanwhile, Gov. Inslee, along with Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, Daugherty, and State Emergency Management Director Robert Ezelle are flying to Eastern Washington Friday afternoon to get a briefing from fire incident commander Ed Lewis at the Chiwaukum Incident Command Post at the Leavenworth Fish Hatchery.

Later in the afternoon Inslee plans to meet with families displaced by the wildfires at the Red Cross Shelter at Chelan High School.

NOTE: Video courtesy Washington National Guard