Story by Capt. Jessica Donnelly
PICKENS, SOUTH CAROLINA – The South Carolina National Guard responded to a request for support to contain wildfires affecting Pickens County, South Carolina Nov. 10, 2016, by providing helicopters equipped with Bambi Buckets, which can be filled with any available water to be transported and dumped on the fire.
A UH-60 Black Hawk from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment and a crew of Soldiers from the 59th Aviation Troop Command out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, South Carolina, as well as a CH-47 Chinook from Det. 1, Bravo Company, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion with a crew from Donaldson Field in Greenville, South Carolina, responded to Table Rock State Park to help contain a fire near the top of Pinnacle Mountain.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Lester Furr, III, South Carolina National Guard State Army Aviation Officer, said once the crew received the request they began preparations and the Black Hawk was in the air by 8 a.m.
The South Carolina National Guard is working in support of the South Carolina Forestry Commission firefighters on the ground to extinguish the fires. Doug Wood, South Carolina Forestry Commission director of communications, explained, the South Carolina National Guard helicopters are able to fill up their buckets in the Upper and Lower Table Rock lakes before returning to drop the water.
“They have a strategy on the ground,” said Furr. “They’re telling us where they need us to drop the water.”
Furr added, the Black Hawk was initially used early on, however, once it was determined that more support was needed, the Chinook was called to respond, as well. He added, the Black Hawk is able to carry about 700 gallons of water with the Bambi Bucket, while the Chinook can carry about 2,000 gallons.
Multiple Southeastern states are being affected by the wildfires due to unseasonably warm weather and a drought. It is expected that the response will continue throughout the weekend due to low humidity and winds, causing the affected area to grow, said Furr.