Minnesota DNR and National Guard combat wildfires

Minnesota DNR and National Guard combat wildfires

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 1, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — With a Department of Natural Resources Air Attack operator in a helicopter pointing out the targets, two Minnesota Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters assaulted a series of controlled grass fires this month at Camp Ripley.

A DNR Enforcement Division helicopter, an Enstrom 480B, served as an aerial supervision platform during a series of controlled grass fires this month at Camp Ripley.

A DNR Enforcement Division helicopter, an Enstrom 480B, served as an aerial supervision platform during a series of controlled grass fires this month at Camp Ripley.

The DNR and the National Guard have been training together with live fires since 2001, but for the first time a DNR Enforcement helicopter is being used to direct the Black Hawks to their targets. The DNR helicopter is ideal for serving as an aerial supervision platform, guiding the Black Hawks.

“This cooperative effort is an excellent example of a partnership designed to improve firefighting efficiencies, as well as contain air support costs,” said Capt. Tom Buker, DNR Enforcement Division chief pilot.

The fires were deliberately set to increase proficiency in delivering water to a fireline, to use proper communication procedures for airspace coordination around a fire traffic area or dip site, and to practice air/ground coordination, according to Darren Neuman, acting DNR Forestry Division helicopter operations specialist.

Guard helicopters use buckets, known by the trademarked name of Bambi Buckets, to scoop up water from lakes, ponds, and rivers that are deep enough for the bucket to be submerged.

The collapsible buckets, which are hung underneath the Black Hawk helicopters, can dump 640 gallons or 5,120 pounds of water on a fire each time they are used, a boon to DNR firefighters.

“The National Guard helicopters can be mobilized within hours,” Neuman said. “The next helicopters that can deliver that amount of water are at least one or two days travel time away.”

Two National Guard Black Hawks were used in April for water bucket missions at the Palsburg wildfire in Beltrami Island State Forest near Warroad.

At the controls of the DNR helicopter was Brad Maas, a retired chief warrant officer with the Guard who deployed to Iraq in 2007. Also onboard was DNR Forestry Air Attack operator who coordinated the drops and locations for the National Guard aircraft. Maas was in charge of positioning the helicopter so the Air Attack could view the operation.
“Air Attack helps advise the ground folks of incoming drops, where to hit the fire next, plus handle any problems if the fire unexpectedly takes off in a different direction,” said Maas.

Each spring, Minnesota Army National Guard helicopter crews retrain and recertify on how to attach the buckets to Black Hawk helicopters, and then practice picking up and dumping water.

“The objective is to integrate the Minnesota Guard air assets into a fire scenario in a training environment, so when they are mobilized for an actual fire they are better prepared,” said Col. Shawn Manke, the Guard’s state aviation officer. “It also allows us to understand expectations and integrate with our interagency partners, allowing us to more efficiently and effectively respond to civil authority requests.”

Manke said that all Guard crews must be of the highest readiness level before they are allowed to respond to a fire. This training entails all flight modes with mission tasks that include sling loads and water bucket training, with an emphasis on crew coordination. Additionally, required classroom training is taught by the DNR, Guard instructor pilots, or through online independent study.

“Once prerequisite field and classroom training is completed, we conduct hands-on training with the DNR,” Manke said.

Minnesota National Guard aviators have a good working relationship with the DNR.
“The training we facilitate through collaboration increases the readiness of the Minnesota National Guard, and it provides a capable force for the DNR to respond to fire threats when required,” Manke said.

SHARE
Previous articleMinnesota Receives $38 Million in Federal Grants for Veterans Homes
Next articleCity of Minneapolis Launches New Homeownership Program Aimed at Increasing Number of Homeowners in Minneapolis and Reducing Racial Disparity Gap in Homeownership