By Tim Leeds
Area members of the Army National Guard have been activated for fire-fighting duty in the Bitterroot Valley.
Sgt. 1st Class Don Hammel, from the local detachments' headquarters in Billings, said 42 Havre members from Detachment One and seven Chinook members of Detachment Two of the 443QM POL Supply Company of the Montana Army National Guard are getting ready to leave today to go to the Valley Complex out of Hamilton.
"Hopefully by 2:30 or so we'll get them loaded and get them on the short bus ride the Bitterroot," he said.
That is where the biggest fires are at, Hammel said. He said he hasn't seen them himself, but they cover an extremely large area.
1st. Lt. Lance Beckert said the group will primarily be running checkpoints at the fire. He said they will be keeping people from entering restricted access areas.
Beckert, the Havre detachment commander, said that drivers could eventually be broken out of the group to drive trucks delivering supplies or firefighters.
Hammel said the troops would be in training and briefings on standards from 9 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m. He said they would cover procedures including safety standards and how to evacuate from dangerous fire situations.
The group will be at the fire for 15 days, Hammel said. He said that is the standard initial callup for state active duty. He said if they are needed for a second callup, the Army National Guard tries to make sure they have two weeks off before a second 15 day call up.