Wildfires Force Risky Rescues by National Guard but Show Stocks to Buy

Paul Dykewicz

Wildfire

Wildfires force risky rescues by the National Guard but show stocks to buy much the way green shoots emerge from the charred forests left behind by the path of the ferocious flames.

Even though wildfires force risky rescues by the National Guard, investors seeking guidance about what to buy can find it by knowing where to look and realizing such conflagrations have become an annual ordeal in the western United States. Whether improved forest management or other solutions to the yearly destruction are the best solutions remain open to debate but there is no doubt that the recurrence of wildfires gives both nature and markets a chance to regenerate.

So far in pandemic-plagued 2020, the United States has incurred 45,635 fires that have burned 8,280,756 acres, as of Oct. 12. The acreage destroyed is nearly double the amount of for the same time period last year but less than in 2017, 2015 and 2012, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Wildfires Force Risky Rescues by National Guard and Require Help from Marines, Canada and Mexico

Among 74 “large fires” currently burning in the United States, the National Interagency Fire Center reported 19 of them are in California, while Idaho is fighting 15 and Montana is mounting its defense against 11. U.S. Marines and international firefighting resources from Canada and Mexico have joined in helping wildland fire agencies in California in suppression efforts.

Specifically, 234 Marines from Camp Pendleton, California, are deployed to support fire suppression in the massive August Complex wildfire currently raging in the Coast Range of the northern part of the state. Canada has supplied 16 fire suppression crews, 15 fire engines and 16 overhead personnel to aid Northern California, while the same area has received five fire suppression crews and four overhead personnel from Mexico.

Wildfires Force Risky Rescues by National Guard but Daring Helicopter Crews Save Lives 

Amid treacherous flying conditions in which fires produced choking smoke and obscured visibility, two helicopter crews with the California National Guard agreed to risk their own lives for nearly 10 hours on Sept. 6 to take repeated trips to rescue close to 250 people trapped by fires that surrounded a lakeside campsite. When the incident at the Mammoth Pool Campground became a threat to kill the people endangered in the Sierra National Forest, northeast of Fresno County, California, the National Guard members came to the rescue and kept returning until all the people and the pets they brought with them had been saved.

The daring and harrowing evacuations that extended well into darkness occurred with the use of California National Guard CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The two choppers alternated rescue missions to a designated pickup zone in a real-world test of their endurance, will and skill.

Two California National Guard helicopter crews spent almost 10 hours flying in and out of hazardous conditions amid fire and heavy smoke to rescue nearly 250 people from approaching wildfires.  Photo courtesy of California National Guard Warrant Officer Ge Xiong, the mission’s crew chief

The Creek Fire that forced the rescue ignited Sept. 4 and by the next day had torched more than 45,000 acres. On Sept. 6, the day of the rescue, the fire nearly doubled by burning 81,000 acres.

Each member of the four-person crew of the Chinook and the three-man team in the UH-60 Black Hawk gained recognition from President Donald Trump, who a week after the rescues awarded the seven California National Guardsmen with the Distinguished Flying Cross. That honor can be given to members of the U.S. Armed Forces who distinguish themselves for heroism or outstanding achievement while engaged in aerial flight.

The four-member California Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter rescue crew consisted of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brady Hlebain, Sgt. Cameron Powell, Sgt. George Esquivel and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joseph Rosamond. Photo by Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Sheldon

For nearly 10 tension-filled hours, the teams piloted a CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk into Mammoth Pool Campground that was surrounded by fire, with visibility severely limited by thick smoke. The people rescued by the California National Guard aviators included the elderly and injured, among the men, women, children, infants and pets airlifted to safety.

California Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew: Warrant Officer Ge Xiong, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Irvin Hernandez and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kipp Goding, the pilot in command, flew through dangerous conditions for nearly 10 hours to rescue hikers trapped by the Creek Fire in the Sierra National Forest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Eddie Siguenza

Wildfires Force Risky Rescues by National Guard as California Forests and Communities Burn 

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The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reported on Oct. 13 that more than 11,500 firefighters remain on the frontlines to battle 21 current wildfires that include what it describes as 13 major ones across the state. On Sunday, Oct. 12, firefighters responded to 34 new wildfires in California, but all were contained quickly, according to CAL FIRE.

The risk is exacerbated by breezy conditions with wind gusts around 20-25 mph. Some wind-prone areas potentially could face instances of gusts up to 60 mph. Dry conditions and above normal temperatures across the state also complicate fire suppression efforts.

Since the start of 2020, California has endured more than 8,500 wildfires that have burned 4.1 million-plus acres in the state. Through Oct. 13, the wildfires had caused 31 fatalities statewide and destroyed more than 9,200 structures.

Wildfires Require Assistance in California from National Guard Units of Other States

Members of the Nevada National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, nicknamed the “High Rollers,” activated July 29 to assist in California. Since arriving at Sacramento McClellan Airport in neighboring California, the Nevada aviators have dropped retardant to assist in the suppression of fires in Kern and Colusa counties. 

“Our low-level tactical training prepares us for these missions,” said Maj. Tom Dorsett, 152nd Airlift Wing’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 flight navigator.

Lt. Col. Mickey Kirschenbaum, public affairs officer for the Nevada National Guard, said his state provided MAFFS to California. The self-contained unit is loaded onto National Guard and Air Force C-140 Cargo planes called “Hercules” due to their immense size, he added.

California Gains Help from National Guard Units of Other States

Nevada’s 152nd Airlift Wing, based in Reno, has flown missions in California every other week, in a rotation with fire-suppression crews from the Wyoming Natural Guard, 153rd Airlift Wing out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, the 146st Airlift Wing of Channel Islands, California, and the 302nd Airlift Wing, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Lt. Col. Kirschenbaum said. The Nevada 152nd Airlift Wing’s mission is scheduled to continue at least until Oct. 16, he added.

Two UH-72 Lakota helicopters, which are smaller than Chinook choppers, flew to Sacramento and provided aerial surveillance and observation as spotters in Northern California to help direct and report to firefighting aircraft. The video could be downlinked to provide aerial surveillance and observation to ground control.

A UH-72A Lakota helicopter of the Nevada Army National Guard is shown participating in firefighting training with the California Army National Guard and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). Photo courtesy of U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt Eddie Siguenza

Nevada also sent a fuel tanker to support its National Guard helicopter while it assists in California. The fuel tanker drove 200 miles from Reno to Sacramento in about 3 1/2 hours, Lt. Col. Kirschenbaum said.

Wildfires Force Risky Rescues by National Guard Beyond California in States Such as Oregon

Maj. Stephen Bomar, a public affairs officer with the Oregon National Guard, told me in a phone interview that the wildfires in his state this year have not been as bad as some previous years but still have claimed 10 lives. However, 2020 has produced some of the “most intense” fires that Maj. Bomar said he could recall.

“It was one of the most historic fire-fighting seasons,” Maj. Bomar said.

More than 1 million acres — larger than the state of Rhode Island — burned and caused the destruction of homes that displaced residents and required a peak activation of 1,300 Oregon National Guard members in June, July, August and September to support aviation operations, Major Bomar said. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on Aug. 19 due to what she called the imminent threat of wildfires across the state. By Sept. 8, the wildfires had burned more than 1 million acres statewide.

Unfortunately, a person set one fire in Southern Oregon, Major Bomar said. Two years ago, a juvenile with fireworks touched off a fire and the youth ended up with millions of dollars in fines, he added.

One duty of the Oregon National Guard amid wildfires includes traffic control to assist people with evacuation and the eventual return to their homes. To prevent looting, the National Guard checks the IDs of those who are seeking to reenter affected areas to see the condition of their homes.

Oregon Wildfires Force National Guard Intervention

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In August, two Army National Guard helicopter crews doused the fires from the air to support the state Department of Natural Resources, Maj. Bomar said. The state recently activated three “hand crews” that are certified to fight wildfires on the ground, he added.

On Sept. 11, the Oregon National Guard assisted in the fighting of five wildfires but only contained one at that time. Wildfires can burn for a day or two, or for as long as months, until embers are extinguished.

Oregon’s National Guard also has a dual mission of not only helping in domestic emergencies but in mobilizing to serve in the national defense overseas when called upon to do so, Major Bomar said. The same skill set can be put you use domestically or in foreign lands, he added.

“That’s what our forefathers intended and that’s what we still do today,” Major Bomar said.

Investment Guru Finds Home Building Stock to Buy that Might Gain Demand from Wildfires

The large number of homes destroyed might lead to a slight uptick in regional demand for homebuilders that operate where wildfires occur. The favorite home building stock of Jim Woods, a former U.S. Army paratrooper who later served in the National Guard, is Dallas-based LGI Homes, Inc. (NASDAQ:LGIH), which he recommended on Aug. 27 in his Bullseye Stock Trader advisory service. 

LGI builds homes in western states that have a history of wildfires that include Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, California, Washington and Oregon. But Woods, who also heads the Successful Investing and Intelligence Report investment newsletters, consulted with macro-analyst Tom Essaye of Sevens Report Research before recommending LGI Homes.

Map Shows States in Blue Where LGI Homes, Inc. Operates

Source: LGI Homes

The rebound in residential housing numbers has been epic in the wake of COVID-19, as three of the four major residential housing indicators surpassed pre-pandemic peaks, Woods wrote when he recommended LGI Homes. Pending Home Sales, Existing Home Sales and Single-Family New Home Sales all have eclipsed previous highs, with New Single-Family Home Sales reaching levels not seen since the mid-2000s. Only building permits remain below the pre-COVID peak, but it’s just fractionally below and another good number could let it join other major housing metrics in new-high territory, he predicted.

Reasons for the bright outlook in housing are clear, opined Woods, who has been listed as the #1 financial blogger in the world according to Tip Ranks. Mortgage rates are at all-time lows, and the Fed is providing liquidity to the mortgage market and is expected to do so for years to come. Plus, social factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and “protest-provoked migration” from urban centers to the suburbs is boosting demand for new homes, Woods added.

LGI topped Wall Street expectations in August when it reported quarterly results that produced a 21% earnings boost on revenue that rose 4% to $481.6 million, compared to analysts’ estimates of a an 18% drop in earnings per share on projected revenue of $462 million. The company also reported an increase in home closings of 3% to 2,500.

Home Orders Grow for Builder that Operates in Western States 

Plus, LGI’s July orders rose 60% compared to the same month last year. The company estimates full-year home closings of 8,000 to 8,800 with an average sale price between $245,000 and $255,000.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

LGI Homes has a modest price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 9.42, but does not pay a dividend. Investors seeking capital gains may find the stock appealing, while others who want income through dividend payouts might prefer to look elsewhere. 

Wildfires Force Risky Rescues by National Guard but Signal a Stock to Buy for Pension Chairman

Deadly wildfires can spur demand from concerned consumers for products that help to prepare for any recurrences.

Pension fund Chairman Bob Carlson answers questions from Paul Dykewicz in an interview before social distancing became the norm after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Companies worth considering for investment include those that sell “survivalist supplies and equipment,” said Bob Carlson, head of the Retirement Watch investment newsletter and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Virginia’s Fairfax County Employees’ Retirement System with more than $4 billion in assets. They should do well when people are “run out of their homes” or the basic infrastructure in an area is unavailable for a while, Carlson added.

Such a company is Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings (NASDAQ:SPWH), a retailer that sells hunting and fish supplies desired by “survivalists,” Carlson said. The company also is possibly the only major retailer left that will sell guns and ammunition, since Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) stopped doing so. 

Roughly half the sales of Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings come from guns and related accessories, Carlson added. Plus, it is opening new stores and cut its debt last spring, he added.

The stock has rebounded recently after tumbling in September, but it still has not regained its previous high, Carlson continued. Its P/E ratio is reasonable at 14.16, he added.

Chart Courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Hilary Kramer, host of a national radio program, Millionaire Maker,” and head of the GameChangers and Value Authority advisory services, said most companies include natural disasters as a risk factor. 

“I tend to zero out all of the potential negative catalysts because nature can get in the way of just about any ongoing business with the possible exception of pure cloud computing companies,” Kramer opined. “If you’re afraid of the weather, just buy Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT). And if you feel like the weather is getting worse, practically all stocks share in the drag. Disruptions happen. Companies pick themselves up after a storm, earthquake or fire and get back to work.

Microsoft currently pays a 1.01% dividend yield and trades at a P/E of 33.9. The valuation is high for a typical stock but not beyond the pale for a still-growing technology giant such as Microsoft.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

Columnist and author Paul Dykewicz interviews money manager Hilary Kramer, whose premium advisory services include 2-Day TraderTurbo Trader, High Octane Trader and Inner Circle.

“When wildfires hit the California power grid, Bloom Energy Corp. (NYSE:BE) naturally sees demand for residential power storage surge,” Kramer said.

However, Bloom does not pay a dividend and it is not profitable as it builds its business. The stock may appeal to investors who like its potential rather than its current operational performance.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

The longest continual cause of National Guard activations so far this year has been the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the infection of President Trump and forced his hospitalization Friday, Oct. 2, until Monday, Oct. 5. COVID-19 has led to 7,858,344 cases and 215,910 deaths in the United States, along with 38,138,374 cases and 1,086,274 deaths worldwide, as of Oct 15, according to Johns Hopkins University. America has endured the most cases and deaths by far of any country.

For investors worried about the risk of natural disasters and seeking ways to invest wisely, the stocks featured in this column offer opportunities despite wildfires forcing risky rescues by the National Guard. Investors will need to assess their own goals and risk tolerance before choosing stocks to buy for their individual circumstances.

Paul Dykewicz, www.pauldykewicz.com, is an accomplished, award-winning journalist who has written for Dow Jones, the Wall Street JournalInvestor’s Business DailyUSA Today, the Journal of Commerce, Seeking Alpha, GuruFocus and other publications and websites. Paul, who can be followed on Twitter @PaulDykewicz, is the editor of StockInvestor.com and DividendInvestor.com, a writer for both websites and a columnist. He further is editorial director of Eagle Financial Publications in Washington, D.C., where he edits monthly investment newsletters, time-sensitive trading alerts, free e-letters and other investment reports. Paul previously served as business editor of Baltimore’s Daily Record newspaper. Paul also is the author of an inspirational book, “Holy Smokes! Golden Guidance from Notre Dame’s Championship Chaplain,” with a foreword by former national championship-winning football coach Lou Holtz. The book is endorsed by Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Ara Parseghian, “Rocket” Ismail, Reggie Brooks, Dick Vitale and many others.

 

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