California Army Guard helicopter crews and California Air Guard airtanker crews are working in coordination with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as 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 retardant, in total, since the first crews were activated on Aug. 13.
“We train for this fight every year,” said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general of the California National Guard. “Our ongoing coordination with CAL FIRE and CAL OES (California Office of Emergency Services) 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 being used to battle the American Fire, two Black Hawks are being used to drop buckets on the Rim Fire, and two Black Hawks and one CH-47 Chinook helicopter are being flown in support of the Swedes Fire. Meanwhile one Black Hawk is staged in Redding, Calif., on call for medical evacuation support throughout Northern California.
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 activation, Aug. 17.
Aircrews are using two C-130J Hercules airtankers to fight the Rim fire. Both aircraft are equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems II, or MAFFS, and are capable of discharging 3,000 gallons of water or 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 airtankers have completed more than 53 drops, releasing about 142,000 gallons of retardant.
As a member of the state’s mutual aid system, California Guard aircraft and specially trained personnel are routinely utilized and deployed by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services “to respond to a wide range of emergencies including wildfires, search and rescue missions and other disasters throughout the state.” This multi-agency coordination and resource sharing effort provides an efficient and effective way to combat the state’s most difficult wildfires.