Currently, nine California Army National Guard helicopters and two California Air National Guard air tankers are working in coordination with CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service firefighting crews to battle the American, Swedes and Rim fires.
The aircraft have dropped more than 250,000 gallons of water or fire retardant since the first crews were activated Aug. 13.
National Guard units also are involved in fighting fires in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
“We train for this fight every year,” said Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, the adjutant general of the California National Guard. “Our ongoing coordination with CAL FIRE and CAL OES ensures that the right people, with the right training, are in the right place when the lives and property of our fellow Californians are on the line.”
Three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are battling the American Fire, two Black Hawks are assigned to fight the Rim Fire, and three helicopters — two Black Hawks and one CH-47 Chinook – are engaged in battling the Swedes Fire. Meanwhile, one Black Hawk helicopter is staged in Redding, Calif., on call for medevac support.
Each Black Hawk is equipped with a 660-gallon water bucket, while the Chinook’s bucket has a 2,000-gallon capacity. The medevac helicopter is equipped with a specialized crew and a hoist for extracting injured personnel from rugged terrain.
The helicopters have completed more than 229 drops, releasing about 111,500 gallons of water since their Aug. 17 activation.
The two C-130J air tankers are fighting the Rim fire. Both aircraft are equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems II (MAFFS) and are capable of discharging 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant along the leading edge of a fire in less than five seconds, saturating an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide.
Since their activation Aug. 13, the air tankers have completed more than 53 drops, releasing about 142,000 gallons of retardant.