In the news...

August 13, 2014

California Guardsmen aid in wildfire battle

Tags:
SFC Benjamin Cossel and Brandon Honig
Sacramento, Calif.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the California Army National Guard drops 660 gallons of water on a Northern California fire, Aug. 4, 2014.

In what has become a nearly annual mission for the California National Guard, Army and Air Force aviators are dousing wildfires across Northern California, where they soon may be joined by Army Guard firefighting hand crews on the ground.

Army Guard helicopter crews mobilized July 31 to support wildland firefighting efforts as dozens of fires threatened several Northern California communities.

As of Aug. 5, the crews had dropped about 430 buckets, or 2.5 million pounds, of water on the Day fire in Modoc County and the Lodge Complex fire in Mendocino County.

Working the fire mission is the most [challenging] and requires the greatest skill level of any mission we have stateside, said Army Sgt. Joshua Esquivel, a helicopter crew chief for Company B, 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, who deployed to Iraq with his unit. The terrain here is very difficult, and having already built that trust and confidence in the crew you’re working with Ö will get you through those hairy situations.

The California Army National Guard deployed 18 helicopters beginning July 31 to support the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the California Office of Emergency Services. Two days later, the California Air National Guard deployed two C-130J planes equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems.

The MAFFS equipment, which is owned by the Forest Service but flown on National Guard planes, can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant through a nozzle on the side of the plane. Air Force Col. David Bakos, commander of the Air Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, said many of the airmen flying the MAFFS mission just returned from an overseas deployment to Southwest Asia.

Our aircrew and support personnel are loyal to this mission and remain ready to respond at a moment’s notice, Bakos said. I am so proud of their commitment and dedication.

Chief Clare Frank, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s deputy director for fire protection, said the Guard crews and aircraft were in place and ready to fly within 24 hours after her department issued its request for assistance.

Our 43-year relationship with the National Guard allows for a seamless interface when these activations occur, she said.

In addition to the two C-130s, the aircraft include 14 UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters equipped with 660-gallon and 2,000-gallon water buckets, respectively, plus one Black Hawk dedicated for medical evacuation duty and three UH-72 Lakota helicopters, which stream near-real-time video and thermal imagery of the fires to incident commanders on the ground.

Army Lt. Col. Mark Kampa, a helicopter instructor pilot based at Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, said that in addition to helping the people of California, this mission is helping California National Guard aviators improve their skills, noting that the level of intensity is much closer to a wartime environment than a training environment. These operations require precision flying, he explained, and that’s hard to teach in a training environment.

On Aug. 4, more than 260 soldiers arrived at the Guard training installation Camp Roberts for four days of intensive instruction from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in case Guard troops are needed to work fire lines on the ground. The training includes two days of classroom instruction followed by two days of work in the field with hand tools.

If activated to fight fires, the hand crews will work to create fire breaks — gaps in vegetation that act as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a fire — and to mop up hot spots and small blazes that remain after a large fire has passed through an area.

Our primary mission is to protect the people of the great state of California, and we train year-round to respond to emergencies such as this, said Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California’s adjutant general. Whether on the ground or in the air, our soldiers and airmen are always ready to fight the blazes that threaten our state each year.

Chief Ken Pimlott, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s director, said the extreme drought conditions faced by the state this year make access to National Guard resources even more critical than in a typical wildfire season.

The recent lightning activity in Northern California has sparked over a dozen fires, he said. Our well-exercised and long-standing relationship with the California National Guard allows for rapid, effective deployment of these additional resources during times of elevated fire activity.

California National Guard aircraft dropped nearly 1.5 million gallons of fire retardant and water during nearly 1,500 aerial drops in last year’s fire season, mainly across California and the western states.

Esquivel said he and the other members of the California Guard are excited to be able to support such an important emergency response.

You really get a sense of accomplishment on missions like these, where you’re out here helping people, he said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines March 4, 2015

News: Pentagon: Another BRAC will save money - Pentagon planners have a new pitch to lawmakers skeptical of a fresh round of base closings: We promise we’ll save money this time.   Business: China’s new C919 will begin test flights this year - China’s new superjet will take to the skies for the first time later this...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jensen Stidham

World War II pilot reunited with P-47

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jensen Stidham Retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel, laughs while under the wing of a P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course Feb. 2...
 
 

News Briefs March 4, 2015

General: 8,500 Islamic State fighters killed in Iraq so far The U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has killed more than 8,500 Islamic State fighters since its bombing campaign began in August, the top general overseeing the coalition said March 3. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said the Islamic State, which...
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Turning up the heat

Lockheed Martin photograph Lockheed Martin ATHENA laser weapon system defeats a truck target by disabling the engine, demonstrating its military effectiveness against enemy ground vehicles. Latest evolution of Lockheed Martin l...
 
 

USO Visit

Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara Actor Vince Vaughn speaks with Edwards Airmen and 412th Security Forces Squadron members at the base library before introducing an advance screening of his new movie, “Unfinished Business,” at the base theater Feb. 28.
 
 

Sikorsky S-97 RAIDERô team begins final assembly of second aircraft

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., announced March 4 the start of final assembly of the second S-97 RAIDERô helicopter at the company’s Development Flight Center. Along with a team of industry suppliers, Sikorsky is developing two RAIDERô prototypes to demonstrate the revolutionary new capabilities in improved maneuverability and flight speed. The...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>