25th CAB assists with Oahu wildfires

| September 8, 2015 | 0 Comments
A Black Hawk helicopter lends assistance with an Oahu wildfire. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Caleb Kittrell, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs)

A Black Hawk helicopter lends assistance by getting water to put out an Oahu wildfire. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Caleb Kittrell, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs)

1st Lt. Caitlin Withenbury
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
25th Infantry Division

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — Two flight crews conducted nine hours of water bucket operations to assist local and Army firefighters with Oahu wildfires, Aug. 3-6.

Early morning, the crews from the 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, consisting of two pilots and one crew chief, prepared their aircraft and briefed their plans for what would turn into four days.

Forty pilots, 30 crew chiefs and 20 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters flew 75 hours and dropped 285,645 gallons of water on quickly spreading flames.

Many residents may have seen an olive drab aircraft with an orange bulb hanging silhouetted in the sky, which is a part of what goes into a water bucket operation.

Daily, two aircrews are on standby in the event of a fire or other emergency.

The 2-25th Avn. Regt. maintains a three-hour standard, from the time personnel are notified to the time “wheels are up,” taking off and departing the airfield, here.

Before the aircraft leaves Wheeler, the helicopter crew checks the cargo hook located on the belly of the helicopter and connects it to the water bucket. The crew takes off to the dip pond water source, to be used for the duration of the mission. The helo hovers above the dip pond and plunges the water bucket into it.

The crew chief, harnessed in the back of the Black Hawk with enough slack to allow freedom of movement and sight out of the open doors, guides the pilots to ensure the aircraft is a safe height over the water and that the bucket is filling up.

Once full, the aircraft takes off towards the fire.

The pilots receive commands over the radio from a ground commander, usually the fire chief. The fire department uses flags and signal mirrors to direct the aircraft where to go. Constant coordination takes place on where to dispense the water using the previous iteration as a guide. The crew also constantly assesses fuel, aircraft limitations, location of the fire and the effect the prevailing winds will have once the bucket releases its load of water.

Fighting fires is a very intricate operation, taking the efforts of the pilots, crew chiefs and firefighters, as well as flight operations personnel, weather forecasters and fuel crews. Without all parties working together as one team, the efficiency and ultimate goal of keeping everyone safe would not be possible.

“This is the best and most rewarding mission we do,” stated Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle Livingston, a pilot on a nine-hour water bucket flight. “As a former firefighter, I know how much fighting a fire from the air can help those on the ground.”

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Category: News, Safety

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