18:23 PM

Regional Effort Boosts Response to Ore. Wildfires

Maj. David Kalahar
Assistant Public Affairs Officer
California Wing

Wildfires have kept Civil Air Patrol members fully engaged in the West.

CAP and its aircraft assisted with state and federal efforts to assess wildfire damage by providing high-resolution aerial photography to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

“We are grateful for and confident in CAP’s capabilities to be there for the nation,” said Brig. Gen. William Betts, vice commander, 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern). “The Oregon Wing took on a colossal task in responding to civil requests for assistance after fires spread over much of Oregon.”

The wing also partnered with neighboring wings to ensure enough planes and pilots were available for the imagery effort. CAP’s Pacific Region set up an Area Command and used California Wing members to support operations and mobilized resources from several wings, according to Lt. Col. Joe Brickman of the California Wing, an Area Command staff member.

"Our operational tempo has been extreme for a long time,” Brickman said. The Area Command provides planning, logistics and overall safety considerations for the multiple wings called to assist the Oregon fire mission.

Aircraft and aircrew from the California, Nevada and Washington wings generated more than 5,000 photos for damage assessment. So far, 18 California Wing members have assisted in the Oregon mission – an effort that includes three planes with three crewmembers, each flying to Salem, Oregon, for several days. Nine California Wing members working remotely provided support functions for the mission, ranging from Area Command to air branch directors and photo processors.

California Wing aircrews also provided their counterparts with initial training on the cutting-edge WaldoAir camera systems, which automate taking Google Earth-style images. The wing also provided two camera systems for the Oregon wing to use.

AFNORTH manages civil requests through Federal Emergency Management Agency mission assignments. “CAP is often the first responder because of its vast experience and unique capabilities as the official civilian auxiliary of the U. S. Air Force,” Betts said.. “Defense Support of Civil Authorities is a mission CAP does honorably. Its volunteers stand ready to spring into action when we need them to save lives, relieve suffering or prevent property damage.”