Nearly 300 CA National Guard soldiers arrive in Sonoma Co. to battle LNU Complex Fire

SANTA ROSA Calif. (KGO) -- After a busy year deploying to COVID-19 and civil unrest missions, the National Guard is now poised to fight the LNU Complex Fire burning in the North Bay.

Hundreds of soldiers marched into the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa Wednesday afternoon, after a week of firefighter training.

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"Learning to hike up and down, getting our shelter gear on in 30 seconds, learning how to dig the lines, laying the hoses, hot spots," explained lieutenant colonel David S. Chang, who's in charge of the National Guard troops.

The soldiers have dropped their day jobs and traveled from all over California to help fight the Walbridge Fire in Sonoma County.

"This is my first fire mission. We currently have about 300 soldiers that are here and I would say about a quarter to a third have participated in the previous ones, so we do have some experience," said Chang.

The wind picked up Wednesday afternoon, which is creating problems on the east side of the LNU Complex Fire, where there are now new evacuations. However, in Sonoma County, the wind could actually be beneficial.

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"On the south side of the fire, the fire is essentially backing into the wind, so we want to take advantage of those opportunities where the winds are in our favor in some parts of the fire, the humidities are up, and use the crews that we're bringing in from the national guard to put containment line in place," said assistant Santa Rosa fire marshall, Paul Lowenthal, who is acting as a CAL FIRE spokesman.

When asked if the National Guard soldiers were ready for the firefight after a week of training, Lowenthal said, "Yeah, absolutely. They've done this for the state before in the past and they're going to do it for us again."

"Having these additional boots on the ground to get in there and physically do the work that we need. It's perfect timing."

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The National Guard has been activated for 29 days in Sonoma County.

Depending on how the firefight goes, their stay could be shorter or go longer.


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