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State Wants to Form Wildfire-Fighting Alliances

Nearly one-third of the California National Guard is deployed on homeland security and other missions. That has the state looking to form wildfire-fighting alliances with the National Guards of five other Western states.

About 7,000 California Army and Air National Guard troops are serving security missions in the United States or are posted in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition to its national defense missions the National Guard helps out after natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and fires. In the past, Guard helicopter pilots have been dispatched to drop water on large wildfires. But eight of California´s 30 Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters are currently based overseas.

Only about six to eight of the remaining helicopters would be available to fight fires.

Later this month, officials with the California National Guard plan to meet with their counterparts in five Western states to discuss mutual-help plans during the fire season.