Kentucky air crews train to fight wildfires

By Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

150824-Z-GN092-053

A UH-60 Blackhawk with the Kentucky National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade lifts off with a Bambi Bucket System attached to train on water drops in Franklin County, Ky., Aug. 24, 2015. Air crews train annually with the water drop system to wildfires locally or nationally. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — As an annual requirement, many National Guard air crews train to fight wildfires in their UH-60 Blackhawks. With so many wildfires burning in the country, this annual training comes at an appropriate time for Kentucky Guard aviators.

In August, Soldiers with the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade practiced water drops in a rural area of Franklin County, Kentucky.

“The training keeps our crews up to date so that in the event we do get called for forest fires or anything like that, we have the crews readily available, trained up and delay free in any response,” said Warrant Officer Candidate Michael Lona.” 150824-Z-GN092-148

With the use of the Bambi Bucket System, a water delivery bucket attached to the helicopter, crews are able to make water drops of several hundred gallons of water on hotspots or fires.

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Crews train in multiple ways of filling the bucket and making the drops, each dependent upon the terrain, the type of fire and the firefighting strategy.

“This is an extremely technical skill, so it’s necessary that that our crews remain proficient,” said Capt. James Caniff, Flight Operations Supervisor. “Being able to fight a forest fire with our helicopters is a huge assets to state and in some instances the nation.”

There are five Bambi Bucket Systems available on the commonwealth, all managed by the Forest Service and shared with the Kentucky Guard when needed.

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