Army Guard Prepares for Fire Season

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Army Guard Prepares for Fire Season

0613chopper

Brandon Rittiman / KUNR

Blackhawk helicopters fly in formation as they return from a training exercise on firefighting operations.

Fire crews here in Northern Nevada are gearing up for the summer ahead.
One of the most useful tools to the firefighters on the ground comes from above.
KUNR's Brandon Rittiman takes us aboard a Nevada Army National Guard helicopter- in firefighting mode.

Less than a hundred feet above at Boca reservoir, our wobbly blackhawk helicopter steadily heads down.
Our descent slows as sparying lake water fills our vision out the open side doors.
One of the four crew members calls out as the giant orange bucket under our feet hits the surface.
Crew member: "Three. Two. One. Bucket's in the water..."
The bucket fills in a matter of seconds and just like that we're off, part of a practice exercise for firefighters on the ground to work on getting what they need from the choppers.
Aircraft are the most expensive tools you can use on a fire, so it's worth making sure the air crew is sharp, too.
Chief Warrant officer Jason Penrod tells me just the slightest hiccup between a pilot and the crew can render a drop useless.
Penrod: "You're not doing these guys any good on the ground. They're pretty much relying on us to extend their fire line and get this fire contained."
It took a couple test drops to get the timing just right for putting water where fire crews need it, and then...
Helicopter crew: "And open in 3. 2. 1. Water's away."
Firefighter: "10-4 that line that you flew out was perfect."
With fire season coming, that's what the people on both ends of the radio wanted to hear.