Tuesday, June 12, 2012
A Kansas National Guard Unit has been called to assist Colorado authorities in battling wildfires.
Nine soldiers from Salina and Topeka of the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation and Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment will depart Tuesday. They will use a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to help tame the fire. The helicopter is equipped with a 660 gallon “Bambi” bucket that can scoop water from local water sources and dump them on the flames.
“We are always ready to help our neighbors when the call comes, just as they are ready to help us,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “Our soldiers are excited to be able to help out and they will be a great asset to the firefighting efforts in Colorado.”
Their mission may last up to 15 days. Being around wildfires will be a new experience for many of the soldiers, but their aircraft commander is a veteran of three wildfires.
"I wasn't really expecting too much going on other than tornados. I mean, we live right in tornado alley. It's Kansas," sad Pvc. Devon Schofield. "But wildfires, it should be pretty cool. I've never actually seen one."
"This is my third time going out fighting a fire in another state, so thoughts are to take some inexperienced crews with me this time and get them trained up and to also assist Colorado with fighting the fire," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steve Hood, Blackhawk Commander.
The fire has blackened about 64 square miles and destroyed more than 100 structures northwest of Fort Collins. Hundreds of homeowners have evacuated.
Kansas National Guard helicopter crews assisted Texas and Oklahoma with large-scale grassfires in 2006 and with California wildfire response in 2008.