More than 350 families have been evacuated from their homes on Camp Pendleton, Calif., as a safety precaution to escape the spreading wildfires around San Diego, Marine and Pentagon officials said Friday.
The only report of an injury thus far on the base was a firefighter who suffered heat exhaustion, the officials said.
About 380 military and civilian firefighters were battling the fast-moving blazes that have burned about 6,300 acres on the base north of San Diego, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
The military has bolstered the civilian firefighting effort on Pendleton and at the sites of nine other wildfires around San Diego with at least 19 helicopters and five firetrucks, Warren said.
The Navy helos, working at the request of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, are conducting aerial water drops over the fire damaged areas, said Lt. Lenaya Rotklein, spokeswoman for the Navy's third fleet.
On Thursday May 15, the helicopters conducted 127 drops totaling more than 45,000 gallons of water. The MH-60S uses what's called a bambi bucket to hold and disperse 420 gallons of water on board the helicopter.
"We have ready, trained and certified resources to combat wildfires. Our Navy Helicopter Sea Combat squadrons regularly train with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. They conduct semi-annual training to ensure an immediate response capability in support of local authorities for emergency events," said Rotklein.
In areas outside Camp Pendleton, authorities have issued evacuation notices to at least 23,000 residents, businesses, and schools in areas threatened by the fires.
The fires have been fed by brush and trees that served as kindling and were fanned by the Santa Ana winds in the prolonged drought in southern California. California authorities estimated that $20 million in damages have been caused by the fires that charred at least 15 square miles of land in the area.
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