Story by Master Sgt. Ryan Campbell
New York National Guard
ELLENVILLE, N.Y. – NY Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk aircrews teamed up with the New York State Police and Department of Environmental Conservation to battle a wildfire in the Hudson Valley, Minnewaska State Park Reserve, in the Ulster County town of Ellenville. During the week of Aug. 29, 2022.
Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters assigned to the Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, were on station at the Joseph Y Resnick Airport, located at the foot of the burning hillside. Equipped with Bambi Buckets, the UH-60 helicopters were able to fill them with 560 gallons of water from local ponds to dump on the wildfire in the Hudson Valley.
“In total we flew about 16 hours to support the mission and dropped 80 buckets of water,” said Col. Jason Lefton, the state aviation officer.
The National Guard helicopters accounted for nearly 45,000 gallons of water being dumped on the fire in conjunction with New York State Police helicopters.
More 200 firefighters tackled the blaze from the ground, some coming from as far as Quebec, Canada, as it grew from 15 acres to 270 acres, after a lightning strike on August 26 ignited the fire, according to DEC officials.
Five Airmen assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, who are trained in wild-land firefighting were also part of the fire fighting effort on the ground. The Airmen, who are based at Stratton Air National Guard base outside Schenectady, New York, reported for duty on August 31.
“As wildfires continue to rage through Minnewaska State Park, I urge every New Yorker to take sensible precautions to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “I thank all of our brave first responders, partner agencies and neighbors who are working around the clock to protect our communities.”
Aided by rain storms during the week, officials have said that no surrounding structures or private property have been damaged and that there has been no fire-related injuries.
“These firefighters are focused on protecting the public and working to contain the fire,” said NYS DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Until we get significant rainfall, these fires are going to keep burning. We need everyone to do their part and be careful with fire.”
Just recently in July, the New York Army National Guard aircrews had completed their annual certification training in the use of Bambi Buckets during an exercise held at Round Lake. The previous time the New York National Guard responded to a wildfire was in 2018 to the 500 acre forest fire in Altona that saw the Guard dump 126,000 gallons of water.
“Our training pays off because our team was ready when called,” Lefton said. “It is a testament to our training plans, individual readiness, instructor pilots and amazing maintenance teams.”
Hochul joined Lefton in praising the efforts of the New York National Guard to contain the fire, thanking them for the resources and capabilities they bring.
“Our Black Hawk aircrews performance was spectacular,” Lefton said. “On short notice, full-time and part-time aviators sprang into action, prepared, moved out, coordinated on the scene and executed with bravery in a smokey, hot environment, immediately aiding the police, DEC and firefighters efforts.”
He added, “We will recover, train and be ready to aid when the call comes again.”
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