Babylon & Beyond

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IRAQ: Fire rages at home but troops reassured their homes are safe

October 14, 2008 |  1:43 pm

Camp Pendleton fire

As 350 federal, state and municipal firefighters worked feverishly Tuesday to prevent flareups in the 3,600-acre Juliet fire at Camp Pendleton, officials moved to get word to 10,000 troops deployed in Iraq and elsewhere that their homes were safe.

The word was spread through e-mails, phone calls, websites and a well-developed "family readiness" system that keeps troops from being distracted by problems at home.

"Their heads need to be in the game and not worrying about home," said Col. James Seaton, base commander.

Some 2,000 military personnel and family members were evacuated Monday afternoon as the fire spread dangerously close to two on-base housing units, Serra Mesa and San Luis Rey. (Another 2,000 people were evacuated from neighborhoods in Oceanside that are adjacent to the base.)

No homes burned but flames came within a few dozen yards. The home that came the closest was Seaton's, where fire scorched the lawn in the backyard.

The fire was fought Marine-style: with a ground attack backed by airstrikes. Seaton praised the work of firefighters and the presence of fixed-wing and rotary-wing craft dropping water.

"Had we not had the 'super-scoopers' and other air assets, we would have lost a lot of homes of Marines and sailors," he said.

-- Tony Perry, at Camp Pendleton

Photo: Fire raging Monday night at Camp Pendleton. Credit: Marine Corps

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