Black Hawks arrive at Fairchild AFB to help aid in fire fight

Black Hawks arrive at Fairchild AFB to help aid in fire fight

Firefighting aid began to arrive in the Inland Northwest after Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency proclamation Tuesday.

Tuesday, Gov. Inslee declared a state of emergency due to wildfires burning in the State of Washington. Washington’s Department of Natural Resources has responded to 891 fires so far in 2018, which have burned a combined 113,000 acres. That’s more fires than in all of 2017.

For the fifth time since just 2012, the Washington National Guard is being called out to help fight fires in our area. That includes Black Hawk helicopters to help with water drops. They landed at Fairchild Air Force Base Wednesday morning.

“We can carry 660 gallons of water, on a perfect day, I should say, which is roughly almost three times as much as a Huey helicopter,” said Noel Larson a standardization pilot with the Washington National Guard.

Those “Bambi Buckets” also do more than just hold a lot of water.

“We can just be extremely more precise with the actual bucket water. And they can… we actually have a bucket where we can drop a little bit of water here, a little bit of water here, a little bit of water here, versus just one shot,” Larson said.

But, the fire fighting efforts would be nothing without a dedicated crew. Each Black Hawk works on a team of four – two pilots and a crew of two in the back. The crew in back is responsible for managing everything from communications to making sure the equipment stays safe.

“Our job in the back is actually to release the water, make sure that we don’t catch the Bambi Bucket up on anything and we also coordinate with the pilots up front and the crews on the ground to make sure we get the water where they need it to be,” said Crew Chief Joe Flynn.

Before they can do that though, the aircraft have to be visible.

“With a backdrop of trees behind you, even from the ground, you can’t see these aircraft at all. Now, you can hear them, but you can’t see them,” said Larson.

So, the Black Hawks are painted with big pink markings all over to make sure crews in the air and on the ground know where and who they are communicating with.

The Black Hawks will be in the Inland Northwest for as long as the Department of Natural Resources says they are needed.