Militias helping Oak Fire evacuees riot in Mariposa.

The appearance of camouflaged militia members and the Oak Fire in the Little Sierra foothills town of Mariposa has sparked an uproar in Mariposa County, with the local sheriff’s department praising the group for its help. Some residents have accused militias of exploitation. Trouble.

The California State Militia 2nd Regiment — whose website features pictures of men in military fatigues, helmets and assault-style rifles preparing for the “imminent mayhem” — has a mobile kitchen trailer Saturday evening through Monday morning. Set up in the parking lot. A lumber shop in Mariposa, just southwest of the fire, which by Monday morning had displaced nearly 4,000 people while burning about 17,000 acres.

Militia member Daniel Leitner said the militia has about 150 members across California, and about 20 of them, including several Mariposa-area residents and from other nearby counties and one from Bakersfield, led the evacuees. Showed up to offer food and other services.

“We’re part of the community,” said Leitner, 44, who lives in Mariposa County and works in logistics. “We’re watching our community burn and even though many of the members who came to help are spread out, we’re all part of the same unit and that’s what we do.”

Leitner estimated that his group fed about 20 families with meals that included “local farm fresh eggs and goat milk, pancakes, turkey sausage, sandwiches and fruits and vegetables.” Co drove a three-horse trailer to help evacuate the cattle, but did not end up using it.

But not all residents were happy with the activities of the militia, which parked two large green military surplus trucks alongside its kitchen operation.

“The last thing I’m going to do is take a free tree-tip sandwich from a right-wing extremist group,” said one resident, who did not want to be named because she said she was “armed and dangerous.” Concerned about provocation. the people

“We are very angry that they would choose to come at a time of real gravity to try to turn this into a political initiative.” said the woman, who works remotely as a program manager at an energy-saving company, accusing the group of “trying to recruit people into a disaster.”

The US militia movement gained a high profile during the administration of former President Donald Trump, garnering 58 percent of the vote in the election. 2020 presidential election in Mariposa County, to President Joe Biden’s 40%. Federal prosecutors have charged a leader of the Oath Keepers militia with conspiracy to commit treason for allegedly coordinating with members of the Three Percenters militia and the violent extremist group Proud Boys before the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

In California, militia members have become politically active, particularly in Shasta County, where retired US Marine Carlos Zapata led the successful recall of county supervisor, leading to a far-right majority on the board. went

The Mariposa Sheriff’s Office on Sunday addressed public concerns and rumors about the militia. “We received numerous reports inquiring why we ‘activated this militia,'” the office said in a Facebook post. The militia has not been requested to activate or act for any purpose.”

“We’re not supporting community groups helping those affected by the Oak Fire … they’re working on their own dime deal,” the post continued. “We appreciate their efforts and the efforts of other private groups or entities helping our community.”

The sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday morning.

The California State Militia Second Regiment website calls assault-style rifles the “primary weapon” for members, which the website says “always be proficient in rifle maintenance and safe operation and carry at least 400 rounds of ammunition.” 150 rounds per side arm are available.

Leitner emphasized that despite rumors to the contrary, members were not armed while serving in Mariposa. Leitner said the militia is meant to protect American soil from foreign aggression, or “if the whole world is falling apart,” and will also help local authorities hunt down the property of Oak Fire evacuees. be asked to assist in handling any looters attempting to .

The militia, founded in 2012, has grown from one “company” in Southern California to 10 across California, according to the group’s website.