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Utah National Guard soldiers train with fire crews ahead of wildfire season

Posted at 9:25 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 23:25:28-04

BLUFFDALE, Utah — Large wildfires or incidents specifically threatening crucial infrastructure and property typically involve both ground and air firefighting resources to get the flames under control.

On Thursday afternoon, hand crews and engines with Unified Fire Authority worked on a mock wildfire scenario at Camp Williams.

The incident commander called in air support where two Black Hawk helicopters came in to assist on the incident.

“We are just before the cusp on fire season, getting this training down helps us coordinate the coordination timeline down faster so we can get crews out on a fire faster,” said Lt. Col. Eric Wiedmeier, Joint Domestic Operations Officer with the Utah National Guard. “Doing this helps us cut minutes, hours off of our time in getting response out.”

The training scenario included the two helicopters working to practice water drops from a dip site, featuring a large ‘bambi bucket’. The bucket would be filled at the site and flown to an area over the fire where the water would be dropped.

While the Utah National Guard is typically the last-ditch air resource to be called for firefighting response, the training at Camp Williams offers a perfect landscape to prepare pilots for the "real thing."

“It gives us the elevation gain, elevation drop and gives us the opportunity to train on flat ground, desert type area and in the mountains where we typically see the fires,” said Lt. Col. Eric Wiedmeier.

In 2020, the guard responded to nearly 20 incidents in Utah and California. Most notably in 2021, the Black Hawks responded to the Parleys Canyon Fire.