Bambi-bucket drops on Black Forest fire
June 13, 2013
BLACK FOREST, COLO. -- Smoke-clouds rose hundreds of feet and numerous aircraft swarmed through the Colorado Springs air, as helicopter crews worked tirelessly to help contain the fires at Black Forest, Colo., June 12.
Pilots and crewmembers from Companies A and B, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, have continuously dropped water from bambi buckets on the Black Forest fires.
A bambi bucket is a specialized bucket that carries approximately 400 to 2000 gallons depending on its size, said Maj. Michael Hale, executive officer, 2-4 GSAB. It is suspended on a cable, carried by a helicopter, to deliver water for aerial firefighting. The bucket has a release valve on the bottom, which is controlled by the helicopter crew. When the helicopter is in position, the crew releases the water to extinguish the fire below.
Once authorized, 2-4 GSAB responded quickly and worked long hours to extinguish the forest fires.
"We started fighting the fires on Tuesday," said Cpt. Sean Pearl, commander, Company B, 2-4 GSAB. "We've had crews dropping buckets from sunrise to sunset every day since then. We will continue support as long as we are needed."
The CAB's role in the Black Forest firefighting mission was to dump bambi buckets on spot-fires to safeguard houses and buildings within the burning areas, said Lt. Ryan Martin, Blackhawk pilot, Company A, 2-4 GSAB.
"We have been told to do precision drops to protect a lot of homes and structures," said Martin. "We began the mission doing aerial drops to stop the fire from spreading until there were bigger aircrafts available."
Pilots and crewmembers believe they are making an impact, and take personal pride in helping the surrounding communities affected by the fires.
"I've been in the Army for 20 years, and have done a lot of combat missions," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Suiters, flight engineer, Company B, 2-4 GSAB. "This type of mission is important to me, because this allows us to help local families and show we don't just fight abroad. We can also fight to save lives here."
Colorado Springs and Black Forest residents showed support to the helicopter crews for helping save their communities from the fires.
"One of our pilots was doing a bambi bucket fill near a golf course," said Martin. "After making multiple drops, large crowds were gathering on the golf course with banners that had 'thank you' written on them."
4th CAB's UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews have been training on the bambi buckets since March, which has made them well prepared for the fire season. Throughout 4th CAB's support to civilian authorities, there were 914 missions, dropping 689,970 gallons of water.
"I am impressed with how well our air crews are doing," said Maj. Michael Hale, executive officer, 2-4 GSAB. "They have become extremely proficient in these tasks in a short amount of time. They can do whatever is needed of them in fighting these fires."
Flying conditions for the 'Iron Eagle' air crews were very dangerous, and many factors affected how well they could navigate around the fires to extinguish them.
"Communication, inconsistent visibility, and aircraft congestion have been the biggest obstacles of maneuvering through the fires," said Pearl. "Shifting and gusting winds cause the bambi bucket to drift a lot. Our great crews help guide us to make our drops precise."
4th CAB continued to fight the fires until told to cease their efforts. They were prepared to fight the fires until they are 100 percent contained.
"I think this is why we are in the Army," said Pearl. "We are here to serve the American people. It is heartbreaking to see all these homes destroyed by this fire. We will do everything we can to stop this from happening. I plan to carry out our mission until all fires are out or until told to stop."