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173rd FW deploys Oregon Guardsmen to help combat raging wildfires

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

The 173rd Fighter Wing out of Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Oregon has deployed more than sixty Airmen to assist with containment of the devastating wildfires that have spread across the state, and additional personnel from the Wing are preparing to head out in the next few days.

Twelve Airmen left Saturday to support management of traffic control points in Central Oregon.  Fifty additional Airmen were deployed on Sunday to the Echo Mountain Fire in Lincoln City, Oregon. 

These Oregon Air Guardsmen deployed in support of OPLAN (Operation Plan) Smokey, an interagency agreement between the Oregon Military Department and the Oregon Department of Forestry which tasks the Oregon National Guard with assisting in the control and containment of wildfires, when called on by the governor.

“These are historic wildfires, and our Airmen have stepped up beyond all expectations to support their fellow Oregonians,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. William Wilkinson, 173rd FW Emergency Operations Center director. “These are real citizens leaving their homes and their families to protect their state.”

The Airmen come from a variety of career backgrounds, spanning the entirety of Air Force career fields. Outside of their AF careers, these Airmen have volunteered and trained in order to serve in support of OPLAN Smokey in the event that they’re called on to do so.

These teams will be assisting in several capacities: by aiding fire teams, checking for hot spots, traffic management, as well as evacuation assistance. The goal is to better enable civilian entities; be it police, fire fighters, or mortuary affairs, to manage the current crisis.

More than 85 wildfires are currently raging across California, Oregon, and Washington. In Oregon alone, 46 fires have burned nearly double the state’s annual average acreage. As of September 13th, there are 35 active fires in Oregon and over 900,000 acres of land burned.

Multiple members of the 173rd FW have been evacuated, and three Airmen have lost their homes in the blazes. Members of the base worked together to donate and support the Airmen in need.

“I am so thankful to our Kingsley Field and Klamath Falls community who have shown an outpouring of support for our Airmen who have tragically lost their homes in the wildfires,” said Col. Jeff Edwards, 173rd FW commander.  “In these difficult times, it is encouraging to see our community come together to support one another.”

In addition to supporting OPLAN Smokey, the 173rd FW is continuing its federal mission of training F-15C fighter pilots for the U.S. Air Force. 

“As Guardsmen, we have a responsibility to support multiple missions when called upon,” said Edwards.  “This is our home, and we are privileged to assist our civilian partners as we battle these devastating wildfires, while continuing our federal training mission.”

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