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Oregon N.G. Soldiers called to fight wildfires, others to fight in Afghanistan

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A total of 25 members of the Oregon National Guard have been mobilized to help fight wildfires this week in Central Oregon after Gov. Kitzhaber declared a state of emergency in several regions.

Thousands of acres of timber and brush are burning in multiple sites; much of it is still uncontrolled. Currently the largest fire is burning in the Buzzard Complex in Southeast Oregon, already consuming more than 180,000 acres.

The Oregon Air Guard will deploy two Chinook helicopters from Pendleton and two Blackhawks from Salem to fight the blazes with water drops from above. The Blackhawk water buckets carry about 780 gallons of water at one time, while the Chinook's buckets can drop 1,400 gallons of water with each run.

The four helicopters will fly to Madras Saturday morning. The crews are expected to be on fire duty for up to ten days.

More than 4,300 acres are burning in the Waterman Complex region of Central Oregon and that blaze shows no signs of slowing down. Voluntary evacuation orders are in place.

Also burning in the southern part of the state is the Moccasin Hill fire that has destroyed 20 homes, barns, garages, and outbuildings. It has grown to more than 2,500 acres. Smoke, haze, and soot blanket the region.

As these members of the Oregon National Guard battle the blazes at home other Soldiers of the Oregon Guard are preparing to leave Medford, within hours, for a nine-month deployment to Bagram, Afghanistan.

The 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry Regiment, of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is scheduled to mobilize approximately 275 Soldiers to Afghanistan in a 10 a.m. ceremony tomorrow, July 18, at Southern Oregon University's McNeal Pavilion.