The Mohawk River was the testing “ground” Tuesday for a statewide preparation against potential brush fires this summer.
If you happened to have spotted the military helicopter hovering above the stretch of river between the towns of Colonie and Halfmoon Tuesday morning, don’t worry — it was no emergency.
It was a New York Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and it was testing the National Guard’s Firehawk helicopter firefighting system.
For about two hours, the Blackhawk helicopter practiced drawing water and then discharging it from a tank. The test water was that of the Mohawk River, between the Twin Bridges on Interstate 87 and the Crescent Bridge on Route 9 in the town of Halfmoon.
The newly installed firefighting system consists of a 1,000-gallon tank and spray apparatus that fits beneath the helicopter. It can be filled with a pump system and hose from a river or lake in one minute.
The system can drop all or part of the water load. It can also be filled with other types of fire-retardant material, like foam.
The National Guard tests this equipment each year once it’s rigged to the helicopter. The landing gear of the Blackhawk had to be modified to accommodate the system.
The UH-60 helicopter was assigned to the Army Aviation Support Facility at Albany International Airport and modified to support the system at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
State agencies are preparing to respond to possible brush fires this summer, and the Firehawk system can be used to supplement local and state firefighting capabilities.
High winds and dry conditions can prompt a fire weather warning, because together they can easily spread flames once they start.
Long Island has already witnessed its own massive brush fire this year, with two smaller April brush fires in Suffolk County merging into one large fire.