Nevada Army National Guard prepares for wildfire season | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada Army National Guard prepares for wildfire season

A Black Hawk helicopter can be seen through the windshield as it flies back to the Reno-Stead Airport after the pilots practiced their water drops for wildfire season.
Taylor Pettaway |

RENO — With wildfire season in full effect, it’s important for the Army National Guard pilots to be prepared to help combat fires that may break out across Nevada and California.

In order to prepare, the Army National Guard had training to practice its water bucket drop Wednesday in Reno. It traveled from the Reno-Stead Airport south to the Stampede Reservoir near Truckee, Calif.

“We train every year to get ready for fire season, said CW3 Steve Nielsen. “The ground crews (fighting the fires) can’t always get into an area so it is up to us to drop water. Many people think that the water is putting out the fire, but it is actually getting dropped onto the fuels so that it reduces the humidity and makes it cool enough for fire crews to get to the fire.”

To practice, the soldiers take water from the reservoir by flying the helicopter down low enough where the water bucket, called a BAMBI, can fill. Three helicopters were used in the training Wednesday, two Black Hawk helicopters and a Chinook helicopter. Each Chinook BAMBI holds about 2,000 gallons of water and can weigh about 18,000 pounds while the Black Hawk’s BAMBI holds about 660 gallons.

After the helicopters fill their BAMBIs in the reservoir, they circle around and drop the water on the surrounding forest. However, the Army National Guard faces problems with their water drops for wildfires because of the recent severe droughts plaguing Nevada and California.

“The drought makes things difficult to try to find water sources and now we may need to go out further to find water or not be able to drop as much (on the fire),” Nielsen said.

The Army National Guard does a lot of training to be a fire PC, such as getting carded by the forest service and committing lots of hours to training.