Kansas Guardsmen to Help Battle California Blazes

TOPEKA, Kan. - Fifteen soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation, Kansas National Guard, will deploy to California to help local authorities combat wildfires. They will deploy on Saturday, July 12, from the Army Aviation Support Facility in Salina to an airfield southwest of Sacramento, Calif.

The Guardsmen will fly two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with 660 gallon "Bambi" buckets that can scoop water from local water sources and dump them on the flames.

"California has had an extremely difficult year and we're pleased we can help them in this challenging time," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the director of Kansas Division of Emergency Management and adjutant general.

The Guardsmen and helicopters are deploying to California under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a multistate agreement that facilitates sending aid between states during major disasters.

EMAC status gives legal protection to officially deployed workers who may be injured while on assignment. The agreement also addresses issues such as state-to-state reimbursement for other costs associated with response and recovery measures.

Kansas has given assistance to other states before under the EMAC agreement.

In 2000, assistance was given to Montana to combat forest fires and also to Oklahoma to battle range fires. Following 9/11, Kansas personnel were sent to New York to assist with donations management. Kansans were also deployed to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005. Most recently, emergency management personnel went to Iowa to assist with flood recovery.

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