National Guard Black Hawks train at East Jemez Interagency Fire Center – Los Alamos Reporter
A Black Hawk helicopter flies to a drop zone with a bucket of ‘Bambi’ water as a second Black Hawk awaits its turn to execute the training exercise. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
A Black Hawk helicopter lowers a Bambi bucket into the 23,000 water tank Thursday at the East Jemez Interagency Fire Center at TA-49. Notice the flight engineer’s legs hanging from the door. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos National Laboratory Forest Fire Program Director Richard Nieto, left, speaks with Santa Fe National Forestry Helicopter Program Director Brian Kliesen on Thursday. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
The Los Alamos Reporter checks the cockpit of one of three National Guard Black Hawk helicopters Thursday at the East Jemez Interagency Fire Center. Photo by Lt. Greg Bode
Looking towards the cockpit of a Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAYOR O’NEILL
The East Jemez Interagency Fire Center at TA-49, just three miles east of the Bandelier National Monument entrance on State Route 4, received three Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters national and their crews on Wednesday and Thursday. The Los Alamos reporter toured the Fire Center Thursday with several photographers, videographers and communications officers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and watched the Black Hawks in action.
The group was accompanied by Richard Nieto, LANL Forest Fire Management Officer, who has worked in the field of forest fire management for more than 35 years, including 21 years with the US Forest Service. Nieto explained that the Fire Center houses personnel from the Santa Fe National Forest, the National Park Service, and some LANL employees. It is also home to the SFNF Helitack Crew and a helicopter crew contracted to SFNF from mid-April to July.
“Today we have three Black Hawk ships coming in. In order to fight the wildfires, we have to use all the ships under contract with the federal government first, and then the National Guard comes in. At this time of year, New Mexico fire season starts and we start taxing resources,” Nieto said. “Our proactive decision was to bring in the Guard and start training them to prepare for the event of the season. fires, we have to call them in. What they’re doing right now is skill drops.
As onlookers watched, a Black Hawk ‘ship’ flew past the fire station with an orange ‘Bambi’ bucket suspended by a cable. The helicopter hovered over a stationary 23,000 gallon steel terrain tank, dove the Bambi and left it full of water. Nieto said the buckets can carry up to 6,000 gallons depending on several factors, including temperature and humidity conditions. The buckets have a release vessel controlled by a flight engineer on board the helicopter. Helicopters fly to the area where they need to drop the water, communicating with ground crews to make sure no one is in the area. During practice, each stroke is scored for accuracy and skill.
Nieto said Guard ships have night vision and many other abilities besides being able to make water drops. He said that in most places ambulances would be used to get an injured firefighter out of a fire, but in remote high-altitude locations Black Hawks work very well. He noted that one of the biggest issues with the Black Hawks is the rotors and that’s why there is a flight engineer on both sides of the helicopters monitoring the position of the rotors.
If you think Black Hawks look different when on fire duty, it’s because crews keep buckets of staged orange paint so they can paint required markings on specific areas. of the helicopter, including the tail number.
With wildfires in 16 New Mexico counties on Saturday afternoon, helicopters were used to ferry water to the Cerro Pelado Fire in the Jemez Mountains. When asked if National Guard helicopters were being used for this fire, a LANL spokesperson replied that “all aerial operations for the Cerro Pelado fire are coordinated by the U.S. Forest Service – Santa Fe NationalForest.
National Guard personnel at the East Jemez Interagency Fire Center Thursday. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
LANL Communications and External Affairs’ Tricia Ware talks to CW2 Dominic Anderson on Thursday about the features of the Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Lt. Greg Bode demonstrates the setup inside a Black Hawk helicopter Thursday at the East Jemez Interagency Fire Center. Photo by Mayor O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com