The California National Guard has activated more than 700 service members for support as the state continues to fight wildfires that have spread across more than 66,000 acres in Northern California alone, destroyed dozens of homes and forced residents to evacuate.
The soldiers and airmen were activated in the past 24 hours in response to operations throughout the state, including in Northern California, where crews continue to battle the almost week-old Kincade Fire in wine country. More than 103 square miles have burned in Sonoma.
A member of Cal Guard blocks traffic from entering the town of Healdsburg on Monday following an evacuation order.
“In the height of [past] wildfire activations, we’ve had thousands of soldiers and airmen activated,” California National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma told Fox News on Tuesday. “We’re called when we’re needed. For what we’re doing,”
He said 700 members is “a good amount of soldiers and airmen” to support activities in Northern and Southern California.
The majority of the activated service members have been deployed to Northern California, where military police are helping provide traffic control assistance to those residents in the Santa Rosa area who have been told to evacuate, Shiroma said.
Soldiers from the 49th Military Police Brigade operate a traffic control point along Highway 101 in Healdsburg, assisting local law enforcement with evacuated areas threatened by the Kincade fire. (California National Guard)
The fires in Northern California began Wednesday and intensified on Monday, destroying 57 homes and damaging at least a dozen others, with 90,000 additional homes and buildings considered threatened by the blaze.
About 156,000 people were told to evacuate, with many others seeking shelter due to power outages.
Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., the nation’s largest utility, will turn off power for the third time this year in order to keep winds from damaging its equipment. Power went out on Saturday, and the latest round of cuts is said to affect about 1.5 million people across 29 Northern California counties starting Tuesday.
Additionally, six rotary wings have been activated to help fight the Northern California fire, and some of the Guard’s unmanned aerial vehicles are providing “fire behavior footage” to specialists to help determine what the fire is doing and how it’s behaving, Shiroma explained.
Helicopters drop water on hilltops as soldiers from the 49th Military Police Brigade operate traffic control points. (California National Guard)
“It provides an overview from the sky to give real-time details so people on the ground are able to get that information to be able to determine and respond effectively,” he said.
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In Southern California, a blaze known as the Getty Fire broke out Monday before dawn and has spread across 656 acres, and it was just 5 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
There are 7,091 residences in the mandatory evacuation zone; eight homes have already been destroyed and six damaged, the LAFD said.
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The California Guard follows the direction of Gov. Gavin Newsom, Shiroma said.
“Governor Newsom has brought a whole band of resources together to really benefit the people of California,” he added.
Fox News’ Travis Fedschun and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.