Monday, September 23, 2019

Showcase of joint efforts to suppress wildfires

A helicopter drops 640 gallons of water. This technique can help suppress wildfires. 

By Ashley Tammen
Public Affairs Manager
Northcentral Kansas 
When it comes to suppressing wildfires in our communities, we can never be too prepared as fires can travel quickly over the Kansas grasslands! Last Thursday the Kansas National Guard showcased a demonstration of wildland firefighting capabilities in Saline County. Training on these capabilities is being conducted to build readiness in order to support local and State agencies during the wildland firefighting seasons, which takes place during the drier months of the year.

Lieutenant Colonel Larry Leupold says they hope to take some relief off local fire departments that may need some help in the event of a wildland fire. The training allows them to increase their capabilities and capacity to help local communities. The showcase included demonstrations on brush support, ground support, water tender and aerial suppression capabilities.

Brush support includes fire suppression to protect structures or wildland within the fire area and efforts to prevent fires from crossing established fire lines. The brush tank is equipped with a poly tank of water, which can pump at a rate of 300 gallons per minute and the side winder cannon up front can be operated from within the cab for suppressing fires.

National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Jason Garr demonstrates how a helicopter and Bambi bucket can fight
wildfires. Wild fire season takes place during the driest months of the year. 

When it comes to ground support to suppress the fire, nothing is overlooked including equipment standards, physical fitness standards, experience, and personnel qualification standards. Personnel must possess an accepted inter-agency certification known as a Red Card or Incident Qualification Card when arriving at an incident.

Although the personal protective equipment worn by ground support may look simple to most, it is tested to meet red card qualification standards to facilitate inter-operability— safety first!

The Bambi tank is used for dipping into large pools of water where there must be at least six-seven feet so the tank can be filled completely. 

The water tender team consists of six personnel, a heavy truck with a 6,000-gallon water trailer haul system, and a 20,000-gallon dip tank with a pump and hoses. It takes about 30 minutes to empty the large tank while it pumps out 550 gallons per minute!

The most fascinating demonstration to watch was the aerial suppression demonstration. This fire-fighting capability consists of a UH-60 helicopter, a pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and Bambi bucket equipment. The Bambi tank is used for dipping into large pools of water where there must be at least six to seven feet of water so the tank can be filled completely. 

Once the Bambi tank is filled it is transported to the fire via helicopter, making proximity to water a critical source. The Bambi buckets hold 640 gallons of water, which can be released at variable speeds to maximize attacking a fire line.

With the increased capabilities of local and state agencies across your communities you can take comfort in knowing that Kansas is more prepared to tackle the unexpected tragedy of a wildfire! “It’s about our families, everything starts local and ends local,” said Lt. Leupold.

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