Army Guard Practices for Real Fire

Wildfire the 2003 Season
By  | 

If you noticed helicopters making water dumps Saturday, don't worry there wasn't a fire.

It was the Amy National Guard brushing up on their firefighting skills in a Chinook helicopter.

Training for good reason because, pilots say, they expect their services to be needed even more this season since Nevada only has one one air tanker in the state.

I spent most of the day in one of those helicopters and bring you this view of their capabilities.

Crews were flying high above scenic Lake Tahoe and Marlet Lake dropping the bucket and collecting water to make practice dumps on trees and dirt roads.

If there are any flames in sight - they say they're ready!

"Most fires in the state of Nevada are over 5,000 feet
and that's where we start our training," says pilot Aaron Southerland.

But the training dosen't end there. They practice in all types of terrain and different altitudes.

"It's a three-month work up for fire season. But it
also keeps up with daily maintanence," says Chinook Unit Commander Capt. Roger Capps.

Pilots say for every hour the Chinook 47 "D" is in the air, it has 25 hours of matainence and this keeps crews on the ground and in the air very

Two pilots fly the aircraft. One to fly and an assist pilot. There is two in back that have full control of the bucket.

Just to show you how big this bucket is . . . I'm about 5'5''. The bucket is 10 feet by 12 feet and it holds more than 16,000 pounds of water."

These water dumps aren't cheap. The price tag is to fight fires for an hour in a Chinook is $4,500.

"The tax payers have paid for this asset this is just one of our missions to protect property or life or whatever," Capps says.

And whatever the emergency may be crews say your dollars will be working very hard for you.

There are currently eight Chinook helicopters in Nevada available during this year's fire season.