New York aids fire effort

Firehawk helicopter to head for California

The New York National Guard is lending the state of California its Firehawk helicopter to help battle the raging wildfires around the state.

National Guard members were making final preparations Wednesday afternoon and will depart this morning, weather permitting. They are expected to arrive in California in three days.

New York State Aviation Col. Mike Bobeck said the Florida National Guard is providing a five-member crew to fly the Firehawk to California — which is rather unusual.

Normally, New York Firehawk-trained pilots would be on their way to California, but they are being deployed to Iraq.

The Firehawk, a Blackhawk outfitted for fire suppression, was obtained in 2004 and is used to assist local firefighters.

A huge, white tank under the helicopter’s belly holds up to 1,000 gallons of water and can be filled in 60 seconds. It can also be loaded with retardant foam.

California doesn’t have enough equipment to fight the fires and the Blackhawk can drop the water and go off and fight another fire very quickly, Bobeck said.

California officials asked for assistance fighting the fires on July 3 as part of the Emergency Management Compact, an agreement between all states in case of an emergency.

The Firehawk is one of only five in the nation. It was last used in April to fight fires in Ulster County.

The California National Guard will be responsible for the Firehawk until after the fire season is over in September.

Categories: Schenectady County

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