Five National Guard members departed from Wheeling Thursday morning in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter with hoist capability to help fight a brushfire near the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
“They haul what’s called a Bambi bucket,” said Commanding General of the West Virginia National Guard Bill Crane. “That Bambi bucket can hold about 550 gallons of water.”
Crane said the helicopter allows for a quick response to a fire threatening homes and lives in rough terrain, not easily accessed by ground crews.
“Part of it is you have the proximity to residents, so being that close to Fayetteville, certainly we want to make sure that we get in there to protect the lives and homes,” he said.
This is the first time the National Guard has been requested to provide aerial support for a wildland fire in the state, but the guard members have undergone extensive training in Bambi bucket operations over the past few years and completed refresher training this past summer.
“We always try to help our sister states as much as possible, and so we wanted to train and make sure we were prepared to do that,” Crane said.
A brush fire last December burned under 150 acres in the New River Gorge National Park, but did not require National Guard intervention.