12:54 PM

Calif. Wildfires Destroy Members' Homes, Spur Evacuations

2nd Lt. Jerry Camp
Public Affairs Officer
California Wing

Members of the California Wing are suffering from the impact of their state’s raging dual wildfires, with three losing their homes and several others evacuated.

Lt. Col. Tammy A. Sturgill, the wing’s chief of staff, sent out a report late Tuesday listing:

  • Two members who have lost their homes,
  • One who has lost her home and vehicle, and
  • One who has lost her job after being evacuated.

Thirteen members, including seven cadets, have been evacuated from their homes. Seven are listed as known to be safe and three as relocated and known safe. One member lost electricity for three days, and another remained in the fire area and didn’t evacuate.

Three cadets are listed as having returned to their homes after being evacuated.

The affected members represent six of the wing’s squadrons – Beale Composite Squadron 19, Butte Composite Squadron 95, Camarillo Composite Squadron 61, Capt. Jay Weinsoff Cadet Squadron 3, Clover Field Composite Squadron 51 and Hawker Senior Squadron 128.

“As part of the Total Force, we look after our airmen in the same fashion as the Air Force,” said Col. Alan Ferguson, California Wing commander. He urged donations be made to National Headquarters’ CAP Response Fund, used to assist members affected by disaster.

The emergency began Thursday, when Santa Ana winds blew in unprecedented firestorms. The National Weather Service reported winds blowing over 75 mph and humidity below 10 percent -- conditions that caused the flames to move 30 miles in less than two hours, with embers blowing miles ahead of the fire line and making fighting the fire a near-impossibility, a Ventura County Fire Department spokesperson said.

The worst of the two fires is the Camp Fire in Northern California, which the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's CAL FIRE website reports has so far consumed 125,000 acres of land, threatened 15,500 structures and destroyed 6,522 residences and 260 commercial structures. Those numbers are expected to rise.

The California Wing’s Northern California Group 5 is commanded by Lt. Col. Bill Wetzel, who said, “85 percent of the town of Paradise has been destroyed. One hundred percent of their Police Department has lost their homes. At least five California Highway Patrol officers have lost their homes as well.

“At least three members of Group 5 have lost their homes, and two lost places of employment. We don’t know how many have been evacuated,” Wetzel said.

In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire has burned 96,314 acres, threatened 57,000 structures and destroyed an estimated 435 structures. Blown by the Santa Ana winds, the fire swept down the coastal hillsides through canyons, pushing flames to the Pacific Ocean near Malibu at the speed of a hurricane and consuming everything in its path.

Maj. Jon Wordsworth, Central Coast Group 4 commander, said an unknown number of members had been evacuated from their homes. Camarillo Airport was threatened by the fire early on, Wordsworth said, adding that “with the winds as high as they were” the CAP Cessna 182 located there couldn’t be removed.

The causes of both fires are under investigation.

The California Wing stands ready to respond when disaster recovery efforts begin.