146th joins firefighting efforts in Kern County
By Maj. Kimberly Holman, 146AW
/ Published September 12, 2011
CHANNEL ISLANDS AIR NATIONAL GUARD STATION, Calif. -- Amidst emotional 9/11 ceremonies taking place yesterday around the base, members of the 146th Airlift Wing in Port Hueneme, Calif. scrambled to respond to CALFIRE's request for National Guard to assist with fires raging across Kern County.
By 3:00 p.m. Sept. 11, 2011 the first launch orders were received and the California National Guard (CNG) mobilized one C-130J aircraft from the 146th Airlift Wing along with three CH-47 Chinook and two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the Sacramento/Stockton area. Also assisting in the effort are two National Guard HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Mobilitiy Tactictal Truck) , capable of carrying up to 2500 gallons of fuel, which are refueling the helicopters operating out of Lebec heliport.
"These Airmen once again demonstrated their dedication to the mission," said Wing Commander Col. Paul Hargrove. "We are highly-trained and are ready to answer the call at any time."
"The pilots who flew yesterday's sorties reported they could see the flames licking at the back porches of homes," said Mission Commander Maj. Chad Lunbeck, 146th Airlift Wing. "This mission means a lot to us, knowing we are performing a real and valuable service to California citizens. We are able to do something here to help keep them safe and out of harm's way." The 146th flew two sorties and dropped 5900 gallons of retardant on active fires in the Comanche complex yesterday.
The CNG's C-130J is equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System II (MAFFS II) which is capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant on the wildfires. Additionally, the California's CH-47 Chinook are specially equipped with water buckets capable of dropping up to 660 gallons of water, and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters can carry buckets with up to 2000 gallons of water. The helicopters also provide for personnel transport in and out of dangerous and hard-to-reach locations.
Lightning strikes in the Kern County area prompted the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) to give the CNG notice last Thursday that their assistance might be requested. A Proclamation of Local Emergency is currently in effect for the County of Kern.