Saturday, June 23, 2012
A Black Hawk helicopter and nine soldiers from the Kansas National Guard arrived in Topeka today from their mission of assisting firefighters in Colorado battle wildfires that have raged near Fort Collins since June 9.
Currently, the fire is more than 50 percent contained and Colorado emergency management officials have decided to start releasing assets called in from other states.
"I say job well done to these soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general. "They did their job professionally, proudly and with the kind of enthusiasm that's the hallmark of being a Kansas National Guardsmen. I'm sure that if Colorado or any other state needs them, these soldiers would be glad to go again."
The Guardsmen used a 660-gallon Bambi bucket slung beneath their helicopter to drop water on the flames as directed by ground personnel.
"Most of what we did was on the flanks of the fire," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steve Hood, safety officer. "We dropped water to keep the fires contained and prevent them from jumping across firebreaks. We also did home protection by wetting down areas around homes where firefighters had started backburns."
The success of the mission was definitely a cooperative effort between military and civilian organizations.
"We often have opportunities to train with other Guard units, so working with the other states and coming together to help out seemed relatively second nature," said Capt. Jacqueline Miller. "The new experiences definitely come from working with the civilian entities."
Despite contending with weather that hindered flying at times, the Kansas soldiers were satisfied with their mission.
"It makes you feel good to know you have helped with a major disaster and saved people's homes," said Sgt. Ryan Kohlman.
"It's a good feeling hearing the U.S. Forest Service say you did a bang-up job on that hilltop and that they would fly with us any day," said Sgt. Sheldon Snodgrass.
"I know Colorado, before their fires started, were in Nebraska helping them," said Hood. "We've come to Colorado. So that's what it's all about - the National Guard helping its communities. It's wonderful to come out here and be able to help and have the community tell us 'Thank you for being here and helping us out.’”