Friday, September 23, 2011
September Lightning Pre-Position
It's kind of a neat program. If the private helicopter resources are exhausted, the large campaign fires can call up National Guard helicopters to fight fires. The copters have to have a fire representative aboard trained as a Military Helicopter Equipment Manager (MHEM).
SouthOps set up a rental car for me. My relief came in, I got the car, and started driving. The helibase was in Tehachapi, only a few hours' drive, but I had to drive through and continue on another 6 hours North to Stockton to get my helicopter.
Flew South and fought fire for a few days. It was cool to see areas way off the freeways I'd driven by so many times before. They re-deployed us up to Bishop, crossing the Southern portion of the Sierras right over Lake Isabella. The fire in Bishop wasn't really much, so we then crossed over the central Sierras---the only landmark I recognized was 'Balloon Dome'. It's gorgeous country and just goes on and on. Flight following was hard---there's little radio communications in or out back there.
Days' end always involved a small army of mechanics crawling all over the helicopter checking everything over. It's big, can lift a lot, yet flies much faster than our 412 back home.