ARLINGTON, Va. - Nearly 1,350 California National Guard personnel have joined in the battle against six large, ferocious wildfires that have consumed more than 137,000 acres.
Winds gusts approaching 80 mph are propelling flames across hillsides, enabling them to consume trees, vegetation and homes before firefighters are able to respond.
As of Friday, 20,000 homes are threatened, and more than 195,000 people are under evacuation orders, according to figures from the National Guard Bureau.
Guard members have joined with state fire personnel in well-practiced coordination, with the Guard providing logistics support such as traffic control as well as aircraft for the battle.
So far, two C-130J Modular Airborne Firefighter Systems are in service, as well as an unmanned MQ-9 Reaper for aerial reconnaissance.
Capt. William Martin, a Guard spokesman, said the drone is being used for monitoring wildfires and potential flare ups using its sophisticated thermal and night imaging systems, which can detect light and heat far better than the naked eye and from a much higher altitude.