Video of National Guard helicopters fighting fire near Bastrop, Texas

The above video shows Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters from the Texas Army National Guard dropping water on a fire near Bastrop, Texas, October 15, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard video by Mr. John Thibodeau).

The video below also shows National Guard helicopters working a fire near Bastrop, Texas, but it was shot September 6, 2011.

California National Guard helicopter crews train to fight wildfires

California National Guard helicopter crew training wildifire

The article below was written by Johnny Yount. Photos were taken by Bob Martinez.

Times are changing in the wildfire business as quickly as the global weather. The annual National Guard and CAL FIRE training was conducted April 10 through 12 at the CAL FIRE Academy in Ione and Lake Pardee in Amador County.  The Army National Guard has been in partnership with CAL FIRE for over five decades fighting fire with helicopters. The C 130 (MAFFS) provided by the Air National Guard at Channel Islands have been delivering retardant since the 1970’s. In an effort to protect the people and resources of California every branch of the military in California can provide aerial delivery of water or retardant.  This is not unique to California, as many states have increasingly become involved in using state guard units to augment firefighting forces.

In the early 1990’s a plan called Spirit of Cooperation was put together by CAL FIRE to begin working much more closely with the State’s military helicopter units to  benefit and provide a safer fire work environment for both CAL FIRE and the Military.

California National Guard helicopter crew training wildifireCalifornia National Guard helicopter crew training wildifire

Meetings where held, issues identified, and a plan of action initiated with a mutual understanding  of what would be required to enhance the capability of both the Guard and CAL FIRE simultaneously.

There were five components to the plan. One of the components identified was the addition of a military helicopter manager who would fly at all times with the helicopter and provide tactical and logistical support to the military air crew. This simple step, providing an air program qualified helicopter manager to be part of the flight crew, maximizes the capability of the helicopter to move around the State much like a fixed wing air tanker.

The training at the CAL FIRE Academy was a refresher for most in attendance. The majority of the students are CAL FIRE aerial fire fighters, air attack and helitack Captains. Each military manager represents years of air program understanding and airborne firefighting experience.  Also involved in the program are aerial fire fighters from Orange County Fire Authority and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

California National Guard helicopter crew training wildifire

When a Guard helicopter is activated, a manager is assigned to a specific copter and crew. The Blackhawks have a crew of three military and one CAL FIRE military manager. The Chinooks have a crew of four military and one CAL FIRE manager. In addition to the airborne helicopter assets, Guard and CAL FIRE liaisons are assigned to the activation.  Maintenance teams, fuel tenders and other military support staff are also assigned as needed to assure that the activation runs smoothly.  As mentioned, the Guard helicopters move around the State more like a fixed wing air tanker than a helicopter.  It would not be uncommon for a Guard helicopter to be working a fire on the Modoc National Forest (Alturas Airport), get released, head south to a new emerging fire on the Angeles National Forest, remain overnight in Bakersfield, and then be reassigned to a fire in Ventura County.

During transit the Guard helicopters are in contact with the three primary CAL FIRE Operation Centers at Sacramento, Riverside and Redding.  New initial attack fires or change of assignment are common.  This fire season the Guard facilities at Los Alamitos, Stockton and Mather will be providing as many as five Chinooks and five Blackhawks.

CAL FIRE will hold similar training with the United States Marine Corps and Navy.

California National Guard helicopter crew training wildifire

California National Guard helicopter crew training wildifire

California National Guard helicopter crew training wildifire

Video: Blackhawks dropping on Oklahoma fire

Most of this video shot from an aerial platform Sunday afternoon shows general footage of a wildfire burning in Logan County, Oklahoma, but at the beginning and again at about 7:30 it has shots of two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters dropping on the fire. On most of the scenes they show where the water lands, rather than, like most news footage, continuing to follow the aircraft as it leaves the fire.

Three blazes in the area burned a total of about 1,300 acres, destroyed several structures, and required the closure of an interstate highway.

Below is an excerpt from an article at News9:

A voluntary evacuation order was issued for residents living east of Choctaw Rd., north of Prairie Grove Rd. all the way to highway 105 and on the north, as well as at Triple X Rd. on the east; a total of approximately four square miles, including the town of Meridian, Okla. The evacuation order was lifted just after 5:30 p.m.

The Oklahoma Red Cross opened a wildfire evacuation center at the First Christian Church, located at 402 E. Noble, in Guthrie.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) had to shut down Interstate 35 in both directions, at mile marker 163, due to multiple car crashes in the area caused by the wild fire crossing the highway. Troopers reopened I-35 in both directions around 4:30 p.m. The highway was closed for approximately one hour and fourteen minutes.

The first fire started in the area of Hiwassee in Guthrie and stretched to Henney Rd. in Coyle. Firefighters contained the fire shortly after it began. Then a second fire sparked in the area of Redland Rd. and County Road 0730. A third fire flared up just south of Seward Rd., about two miles west of I-35.

Another video about the Logan County fires is at Wildfire Today.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Johnny.

CNN reports on LA County’s Firehawks

CNN put together the above video about Los Angeles County’s Blackhawk helicopters, which they call Firehawks. The footage is impressive, and looks like an advertisement for Sikorsky and the maker of the “souped up” engines, General Electric. Some of the scenes actually did come from a commercial for GE that we had on our site in February.

Cause of helicopter hoist fatality similar to earlier rappel death

Harness connection
A demonstration of the improper harness connection. Air Force photo.

An investigative report determined that the cause of a fatality that occurred to a volunteer while he was being lowered by a helicopter’s hoist over the Sequoia National Forest was similar to a previous rappelling accident that killed a U.S. Forest Service employee in 2009.

Use of hoist
File photo. Pararescuemen from the 304th Rescue Squadron Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., practice their rescue skills with an HH-60 Pave Hawk and crew from the 305th RQS at nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny

The Air Force report released last week by the Virginia-based Air Combat Command said improper rigging and inadequate oversight caused the death of Shane Krogen, executive director of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, 30 miles east of Visalia, California, on September 12, 2013.

Mr. Krogen was participating in an environmental clean-up and restoration of a contaminated marijuana grow site in the Sequoia National Forest that was carried out by California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing. While preparing to be lowered by the hoist on an HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter, a variant of a Blackhawk, Mr. Krogen mistakenly attached the aircraft’s hoist to a non-load-bearing plastic D-ring of a tactical vest instead of to the load-bearing metal D-ring of his harness. When the plastic D-ring broke, Mr. Krogen fell from the aircraft to the ground from an approximate 45-foot hover and sustained fatal injuries.

The report concluded that the helicopter crew’s safety man did not maintain adequate oversight during flight and hoist operations and that Mr. Krogen’s use of his personal equipment “excessively cluttered the area around the load-bearing metal D-ring”, interfering with a safe connection and visual inspection. And, “due to the extremely close proximity of the Yates harness load bearing D-ring in relation to the Condor tactical vest’s non-load bearing D-ring, and the concealment of both D-rings by the cluttered pouches on the Condor tactical vest, which included a handgun, the [safety man] incorrectly concluded the Civilian Fatality was properly secured”.

The report also said that according to the Pentagon only law enforcement personnel should be allowed on counterdrug flights and that Mr. Krogen, as a civilian, was not authorized to be on the helicopter.

Thomas Marovich, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, died on July 21, 2009 when he fell while performing routine helicopter rappelling proficiency training while assigned to the Backbone fire near Willow Creek, California. The USFS report was posted and later removed from the Lessons Learned web site, but Wildfire Today was able to report on it while it was still public. The National Transportation Safety Board Narrative revealed that Mr. Marovich’s “J” hook had been attached to a rubber “O” ring, rather than to a load-bearing Tri-link (see the photos below).

Marovich gear

Before the rappelling attempt, four people looked at or inspected Mr. Marovich’s rappelling gear: the spotter trainee who installed the “O” ring, Marovich, and in the helicopter a spotter, and another helitack crewperson who did a “buddy check”.

National Guard helicopters arrive at the Rim Fire

Blackhawk helicopters Rim Fire

Robert Martinez was kind enough to send us some photos he took yesterday, August 27, at Columbia Airport (map) a few miles north of Sonora, California. Army UH-60 Blackhawks and Air Guard HH-60 Pave Hawks had arrived to be briefed and refueled before they were sent on to the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, about 10 miles southeast of the airport.Blackhawk helicopters Rim Fire Blackhawk helicopters Rim Fire Blackhawk helicopters Rim Fire Blackhawk helicopters Rim Fire Blackhawk helicopters Rim Fire