And now for some good news for a change.

More than 200 people were rescued from wildfires engulfing an area in the Sierra National Forest in central California.

The Creek Fire covered 2,000 acres but in less than 48 hours ballooned to more than 73,000 acres, surrounding residents in the rugged terrain.

Army National Guard helicopters came to the rescue.

“As you can imagine, the terrain up in that area is extremely rugged. A lot of trees, we don’t know where people are,” said Colonel Dave Hall, Commander of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, per Fox 26 News.

Hall says technology on board the helicopters was crucial.

“It’s a lot easier for us to see the heat sources and the fire, sort of see through the smoke at nighttime with the night-vision goggles,” Hall said.

He said some of the crew on board recently returned from military deployments overseas.

According to the California National Guard Facebook page, , both a Chinook or CH-47 and a Blackhawk helicopter airlifted individuals trapped by the Creek Fire. The first 50-60 evacuees, some with injuries, were brought to the Cal Guard army facilities at the Fresno Airport where emergency response, fire and medical elements from the 144th Fighter Wing were on hand to assist. Both rotary wing aircraft returned to the fire site to evacuate more people.

Hall says a Chinook Helicopter and a Black Hawk Helicopter made three trips each– sometimes carrying up to 60 people, to capacity.

“It was pretty cramped tight in there. We do not like to operate that way, but because of the circumstances of this being an urgent situation threatening life, the pilots in command made the smart decision by loading them to get on the helicopter and loading as many as they could on that lift,” Hall said.

“They deserve respect. Absolutely, each and everyone is heroes,” said Dennis Drake of Lake Elsinore, one of those rescued, “Everyone I saw, I shook their hand, thanked them. Mainly because of the fact if it wasn’t for them. I wouldn’t have made it out.”

Dozens of evacuees are flown to safety by a Cal Guard CH-47 Chinook after being trapped by the #CreekFire last night. (Photo courtesy California National Guard)

Posted by California National Guard on Sunday, September 6, 2020

Two Wisconsin National Guard Black Hawk helicopters and 15 soldiers have also been deployed to California to help battle wildfires. The aircraft, crews and maintenance personnel are from 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation is prepared to employ water buckets to battle fires and take on any other assigned missions.

The wildfires have claimed so far at least 35 lives. More than 30,000 firefighters and support personnel are fighting almost 100 major fires. Since the beginning of the year, wildfires have burned over 3.2 million acres in California alone, larger than the State of Connecticut. In total, over 5 million acres have burned in California, Oregon and Washington.

That’s one instance where everyone, no matter what their political beliefs, is happy to see the National Guard step in.

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