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    Florida National Guard helicopters attack wildfires

    Florida National Guard helicopters attack wildfires

    Photo By Master Sgt. Christopher Milbrodt | UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews from the Florida National Guard...... read more read more

    PANAMA CITY, Fla. – When aircrews from Cecil Field reported to drill on Saturday, March 5, their plan was to conduct training on their Chinook helicopters and get some training hours in the air. Their weekend plans changed quickly when requests for helicopter assistance came from the state’s Department of Emergency Management to help fight wildfires.

    “We have the capability to carry a water bucket with up to 18,000 pounds of water underneath the helicopter to deploy anywhere there is an active fire away from structures,”
    said First Lt. Isaiah Carlton, Commander of B Co. Detachment 1, 1-111th Aviation Regiment. “When there’s people in need and they call the Florida National Guard, we are ready to respond.”

    Crews from Cecil Field and Brooksville, FL were among the personnel activated over the weekend by the Florida National Guard to support civilian authorities as they fight the Chipola Complex wildfires in Florida’s panhandle. In addition to the pilots, the Florida Guard has activated two dozen Guardsmen, two Black Hawk helicopters, and two Chinook helicopters to support the state’s response. Since arriving on site, the Florida Guard helicopters have conducted 20 missions, pouring 156,500 gallons of water to help suppress the wildfires.

    “This is my first time responding to wildfires. We train for it and stay ready to respond, but this is the first time I’ve ever had to put it into practice,” said Carlton. “It is extremely fulfilling when you know you’re coming out to help people. We are dropping water where it’s needed, but it is rare to see the individuals who are affected by our efforts.”

    The aircrews had an opportunity to interact with one person who was directly affected by their efforts because he happened to be working at the airport where they were refueling.

    “The Star Avenue fire was about two miles from my home,” said Edward McNair, a heavy rescue tow truck operator from Panama City, FL. “I could see the smoke and the helicopters each time they made a pass. I truly believe if the Guard didn’t get here when they did my whole neighborhood would have burned down.”

    The Florida Guard helicopters are working alongside Florida Forest Service air assets. The Chipola Complex fires have impacted the Florida Panhandle counties of Bay, Gulf and Calhoun since first reported on March 4, 2022.



    Date Taken: 03.08.2022
    Date Posted: 03.08.2022 16:02
    Story ID: 416044
    Location: FL, US

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