New York National Guard support wildfire efforts in Minnewaska State Park
The New York Army National Guard, New York State Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) teamed up to battle a wildfire in the Minnewaska State Park Preserve last week
The New York Army National Guard deployed two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from its 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, to support firefighting efforts in combating the blaze. The aircraft were stationed at the Joseph Y Resnick Airport and were equipped with 560 gallon Bambi buckets.
The helicopters accounted for nearly 45,000 gallons of water dumped on the fire, in conjunction with New York state Police helicopters.
“In total we flew about 16 hours to support the mission and dropped 80 buckets of water,” said Colonel Jason Lefton.
Five airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, who are trained for wildland firefighting, were also deployed as part of the firefighting effort.
The operation came just one month after the Army National Guard’s aircrews completed their annual certification training in the use of Bambi buckets in July.
Lefton praised his colleagues for their performance, adding: “It is a testament to our training plans, individual readiness, instructor pilots and amazing maintenance teams. Our 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 smoky, hot environment, immediately aiding the police, DEC and firefighters efforts.”
Firefighting efforts were aided by rainfall
The fire, which started near the town of Ellenville, Ulster County, after a lightning strike on 26 August. It grew to around 270 acres in size, spreading along a ridgeline in the Hudson Valley according to DEC officials. At the peak of the blaze, more than 200 firefighters were on the ground battling the blaze, with some coming from as far away as Quebec.
Due to the success of the operation, officials have said that no surrounding structures or private property was damaged by the fire, and that there have been no fire-related injuries.
Firefighting efforts were aided by rainstorms during the week, however New York DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos warned that: “Until we get significant rainfall, these fires are going to keep burning. We need everyone to do their part and be careful with fire.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul added: “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,” “I thank all of our brave first responders, partner agencies and neighbors who are working around the clock to protect our communities.”
Lieutenant Antonio Hernandez of New York Police Department’s Aviation Unit spoke to Mandy Langfield as part of AirMed&Rescue’s June 2022 issue.