TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – As a red sun shrouded in smoke began to disappear for the day, Aug. 19, a noise that sounded like a toddler mashing a bunch of numbers on a phone echoed across Travis Air Force Base. The sound rang out from the base’s loudspeaker warning system, the giant voice, and was the attention-grabbing noise the speaker makes before and after broadcasting important messages. This evening’s message: evacuate the base.
Earlier in the day, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, the third largest wildfire in California history, began burning through parts of parts of Vacaville and Fairfield, California, two towns surrounding the base. This sparked mandatory evacuations for parts of both towns and prompted the Travis Air Force Base commander to issue an evacuation order for the installation around 6 p.m. that day. The order instructed base residents and non-essential personnel to immediately flee the base and head to safety.
“I am so proud of Team Travis for the way they rapidly responded to the evacuation order,” said Col. Corey Simmons, 60th Air Mobility Wing commander,
The evacuation order required 60th Security Forces Squadron members to spring into action, and their response was crucial to keeping Team Travis members and families safe.
Security forces patrolmen went door to door ensuring people on base knew to evacuate. They also guided streams of traffic that flooded the installation’s main thoroughfares and surged toward two, predesignated, evacuation exits.
“Setting up traffic-control points and sending patrols door to door, we were able to get over 3.500 people evacuated,” said Staff Sgt. Demi Della-Rocco, 60th SFS ECC controller.
The base defenders were ready when the evacuation order came down because they had been monitoring the fire throughout the day, and they knew it was scorching its way toward the base.
“We received calls warning us that flames could be seen cresting the hills, and we knew we needed to respond quickly,” said Staff Sgt. Demi Della-Rocco, 60th SFS controller, who added that they called in off-duty patrolmen to aid with the base evacuation.
Approximately 25 security forces Airmen were recalled for the evacuation, and they did better than anyone could have done to get Team Travis members quickly and safely off the base, said Maj. Justin May, 60th SFS operations officer.
By 10 p.m., the evacuation was complete, May said.
Some base members and families fled to friend’s homes, while others rushed to hotels. A couple of days later, the fire receded from the surrounding area, and the base commander lifted the evacuation order Aug. 21.
As Team Travis members bounce back from the fire’s aftermath, 60th Comptroller Squadron Airmen are working to help mandatory evacuees, who fled to hotels, receive reimbursement for their expenses.
“We know this is a very stressful time for many of our Airmen and their families,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Wilkins, 60th Comptroller Squadron commander. “We want to relieve them of some of that stress, so we’ve dispersed finance members to various locations across the wing to help Airmen file vouchers for reimbursement.”
The 60th Comptroller Squadron has Airmen stationed at the passenger terminal, David Grant USAF Medical Center, and the fitness center to help evacuees file travel vouchers. Finance Airmen will remain at those locations until Sept. 2, when they will slim down to the passenger terminal through Sept. 3. Dedicated comptroller Airmen will continue to aid evacuees with vouchers through Sept. 8, when the finance customer service section will resume normal operations, and customers will have to file evacuation vouchers through their units.
Meanwhile, the LNU Lightening Complex Fire, which started Aug. 17, is still blazing, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, website, www.fire.ca.gov. The fire has burned through 372,344 acres as of Aug. 28.
“We remain ready for whatever might come our way,” May said. “We are equipped to respond to contingencies, and what we can achieve together truly has no bounds.”
People can call the finance customer service department at 707-424-8359 for more information on filing evacuation vouchers.