Military helicopters activated for wildfires in Switzerland

Helicopter Switzerland wildfire
(Last Updated On: December 29, 2016)

Above: A military Super Puma takes off with a water bucket to drop water on a fire in southern Switzerland. Photo by Niklaus Watchman.

A month without precipitation in southern Switzerland has led to several wildfires breaking out on the south side of the Alps. Three military Super Puma helicopters are assisting the firefighters on the ground.

Below is an excerpt from an article at blick.ch, translated by Google:

Among the ten armored pilots who flew lighter packs yesterday in the Leventina and Misox with five large heliots, Major Thomas Hügli (35), the commander of the air transport division 6, is also on duty , Insofar as there was no need for work or special assignments. BLICK spoke to him while his heli was being fueled in Soazza GR.

When did your working day start yesterday?
Meeting point was at 7 am in the Operation Center on the military airfield in Alpnach and Dübendorf. After the briefing on the telephone conference, guided by the air transport center in Dübendorf, we first had to pick up our hangar heli in Meiringen.

They fight the larger of the two forest fires on the southern side of the Alps. Is it a dangerous use?
Dangerous but not challenging. The aggravating circumstances include the poor view through the dense smoke. It is difficult to locate the discharge point. In addition strong wind with gusts up to 80 km / h. There are very restless flights.

And then you are not the only heli.
Yes exactly. There are three Super Pumas of the army and up to three private helicopters in action. You have to keep an eye on the others. And communicate and coordinate through radio.

A stubborn fire, a strong wind and lots of traffic: Is not that a frustrating job?
But on the contrary. It provides satisfaction to be useful here and to help the canton and the population. We are there for such missions, they legitimize our work.

They drive a seven-ton machine and throw two tons of water per rotation. Do you feel like a hero?
Not at all. But as a helper. Like 200 other people here and elsewhere.

Actually, the army pilots would be off duty during the holidays. However, they have made themselves available for this emergency operation. What does your family say?
We might have gone to the Engadine today. But my wife and my two daughters (6 and 9) have a lot of understanding for this assignment and find it good that I am with my crew and the crews from Dübendorf in the lot set.

More information about the fires is at Wildfire Today.

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