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Peoria-based guardsmen, Chinook to deploy to California to fight wildfires

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- Six Peoria based National Guard soldiers, along with a CH-47F Chinook helicopter and required mission equipment are being deployed to California to assist efforts in containing wildfires in the northern part of the state.

Fires in northern California have destroyed more than 350,000 acres and claimed three lives.

A release from Governor JB Pritzker said the soldiers come from B Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th General Support Aviation and will be in California for 14 days.

"We're not necessarily putting the fire out, we're supporting the ground firefighters so they can do their mission," said Chief Warrant Officer Jason Rassi.

"This spring, California Governor Gavin Newsom came to our state’s aid by loaning Illinois 100 ventilators in our time of need, and right now we have an opportunity to return the favor,” Governor JB Pritzker said. “California first responders are not only battling wildfires, they’re doing so in a COVID environment under the threat of severe heat and rolling blackouts. "

"Our team of Illinois National Guard airmen will be coming in to provide additional manpower and equipment to help tackle this disaster.  Our airmen are well-trained for these types of missions and will be a valuable resource for the Golden State."

The CH-47F Chinook is a versatile, twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter.  The unit comes equipped with a Bambi Bucket which can hold 2,000 gallons of water for fire suppression missions.  The team, which includes two pilots, two crew members to operate the Bambi Bucket and two maintenance personnel, will also provide operational assistance for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE).

"The soldiers and airmen that represent the National Guard are really your neighbors and it always exciting for us to not only take our war-fighting capabilities and help our neighbors, it's important to us to also help other states and that's what we're doing with this particular mission," Brigadier General Richard Neely said.

The soldiers and helicopters from Co. B 2/238th Aviation previously deployed for rescue operations in 2018 during Hurricane Florence (North Carolina) and in 2011 to aid in Hurricane Sandy (Vermont) relief efforts.

The ILNG unit will depart Saturday from Peoria Air Wing after receiving event identification, mission and safety briefings and mobilization assistance. This process ensures the accountability and readiness of personnel and state assets prior to departure. All costs associated with these deployments will be paid for by California.  

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