Military services offer equipment to fight California fires

The Navy and Marine Corps are contributing equipment to fight wildfires that continue to blaze in Southern California, as residents at some bases in the region prepare to evacuate.

Navy and Marine units have supplied assets including fire trucks and helicopters to help fight the fires, which had burned nearly 400,000 acres by Tuesday evening. The Navy contributed two MHS-60 helicopters equipped with water buckets and two others equipped with forward-looking infrared systems to help monitor the fires, Lt. Bashon Mann said.

Cpl. Paul Robbins, a Marine spokesman at Camp Pendleton, which is about 38 miles north of downtown San Diego, said the base's fire department has dispatched nine of its trucks to help fight fires off base. The Air National Guard also is helping by deploying six C-130 aircraft equipped with fire-fighting systems to the Point Mugu, Calif., Naval Air Station.

Meanwhile, Mann said the Navy has put out word that only essential personnel should report to work at its San Diego County bases.

Mann said 20,000 sailors or Navy civilian personnel and their families in Southern California -- out of a total of 165,000 -- have been evacuated from their homes. The Navy has set up a center that can house 500 evacuees at Naval Base San Diego and has set up a tent city at Naval Base Coronado, which also can house 500 people.

The service has said its personnel in Southern California can muster electronically at and has set up a hotline number for evacuation housing referrals and general assistance at 619-556-9399.

Officials at Camp Pendleton also have said that only essential personnel should report, and have told residents of some base housing areas to pack up and stand by for evacuation. The base Web site instructs residents of the De Luz, Serra Mesa, San Luis Rey and O'Neill housing areas to be prepared to evacuate by packing personal belongings and a good supply of water.

The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees workforce policies across government, sent out a message expressing concern about the health and safety of all federal employees whose lives may be affected by the wildfires. OPM pointed employees to its guidance on assistance and flexible work policies.

Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said it has dispatched 31 fire teams from the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to help battle the California fires.

She added that the center's Incident Communications division has shipped roughly 400 two-way radios to California to help support communications among federal, state and local fire-fighting crews.

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