CAL FIRE and National Guard helicopter training

Blackhawk dipping

Blackhawk dipping

On April 14 and 15 CAL FIRE and the California National Guard held their annual helicopter training in preparation for the wildland fire season. This year there were three UH-66 L Blackhawks and two UH-72 Lakota helicopters at the CAL FIRE Training Academy in Ione, California. Typically they would have CH-47D Chinooks as well but the National Guard Company from the Stockton facility is going overseas. These photos were taken and sent to us by Bob Martinez, a Volunteer in Prevention Photographer for CAL FIRE/Fresno County Fire. He also sent us photos last year that he took at the training. Thanks again Bob.

UH-72 Lakota

UH-72 Lakota

One of the highlights of the training was the addition of the new UH-72 Lakota, a version of the Eurocopter EC145. It is basically an off the shelf model, barely militarized, simplifying maintenance and parts availability. These helicopters, 345 of them, are being introduced to the Army and the Army National Guard to replace the aging UH-1H/V (Bell 204) and OH-58A/C (Bell 206) helicopters. The Lakota has two engines, cruises at 153 mph, carries two pilots and six or eight passengers, or two stretchers and a medical staff. Some of them are outfitted with a winch which can be used for extracting injured soldiers or firefighters from remote locations. On fires it will not drop water but will be primarily used as a platform for a military Helicopter Coordinator, which is required when military helicopters are flying. It can also be used for recon, transportation, EMS, or logistics missions. The Lakota is built in Columbus, Mississippi by  the American Eurocopter division of EADS North America.

UH-72 Lakota

UH-72 Lakota

UH-66 L Blackhawk

UH-66 L Blackhawk

UH-66 L Blackhawk

Two UH-66 L Blackhawks

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

2 thoughts on “CAL FIRE and National Guard helicopter training

  1. Bill, What a great article and photos from Bill Martinez. I was the SOF1 and PSC3 for the both the 2011 and 2012 CA NG Spring Copter Training exercises. A great weekend by all–great learning experince for the CA NG, CAL FIRE and many CA local government fire departments that participated as MEMGs. The helibase is at the CAL FIRE Academy at Ione. The dipsite is Pardee Resevior in Amador/Calaveras Counties. The annual grasses are green now but in a few weeks we could potentially have a very busy fireseason. Eric

  2. Sadly enough there have been some recent incident injuries on wildfires where extrication from a remote location was too long. Although Cal Fire’s Super Huey helicopters and crews are short haul capable, the addition of the Lakota with winch (600 lbs. cap.) is a dynamic step in fire line prompt emergency care and transport. Thanks to Mr. Martinez and Wildfire Today for covering this training.

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