The Los Angeles County Fire Department once again participated in a joint CAL FIRE and California National Guard fire aviation training exercise.
The training, which was held April 10–12 at the CAL FIRE Academy in Ione and Lake Pardee in Amador County, gives firefighters and Cal Guard helicopter crews the opportunity to work together to perform water drops and other activities. The program allows CAL FIRE to augment its helicopter fleet with Cal Guard crews when firefighters are battling multiple major wildfires simultaneously.
“Cal Guard aircraft and crews train throughout the year so we’ll be ready when fire season inevitably arrives,” Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, Adjutant General of Cal Guard, said in a news release. “But this is a team effort, and the annual training in Ione is critical in making sure we stay in sync with CAL FIRE and all our partner agencies in keeping Californians safe.”
During the training, a firefighter—known as a military helicopter manager—will ride in the Cal Guard helicopter and relay information from firefighters on the ground to the helicopter’s military crew to ensure that water is dropped in the proper location. Due to the drought, CAL FIRE staff worked closely with local water districts to identify drop areas in ravines so the water would make its way back to the lake from which it was taken.
In addition to CAL FIRE and Cal Guard, L.A. County is one of fewer than a dozen fire departments and other agencies to send personnel to the training.
There are currently four Department personnel who are trained as military helicopter managers.
Photo gallery: An Army National Guard Blackhawk practices dropping water, and CAL FIRE and fire department military aviation coordinators discuss with a National Guard pilot water dropping techniques. Photos courtesy CAL FIRE on Facebook.