Interagency approach strengthens wildfire response

Interagency approach strengthens wildfire response

  • Arizona National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service discuss wildfire exercise.
  • Arizona National Guard members prepare helicopter water drop bucket for wildfire exercise.
  • Arizona National Guard members participates in wildfire exercise.
  • Black Hawk helicopter lowers water bucket into Roosevelt Lake for wildfire exercise.
  • Black Hawk helicopter releases water onto practice targets during wildfire exercise.
Members of the Arizona National Guard, U.S. Forest Service, and National Park Service participate in annual wildfire certification exercise.

Interagency response efforts keep communities, including natural habitats and infrastructure, safe during emergencies. In the case of wildfires, the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) relies on its internal entities, the Arizona National Guard and the Division of Emergency Management, to work together to provide a strategic response.

In preparation for the 2017 wildfire season, pilots and crewmembers of the 2-285th Assault Helicopter Battalion of the Arizona Army National Guard participated in an annual certification training exercise for wildfire response at Roosevelt Lake on March 22-23. The U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service provided fire management and operations expertise during the exercise.

Pilots and crewmembers operating the UH-60 Black Hawk, the National Guard’s utility transport and air assault aircraft, ensure precise training by using the same equipment is used during a real incidents and  the certification process. The Black Hawk enhances water drop capabilities, allowing for hoisting and delivering up to 420-660 gallons of water through a specialized helicopter bucket. Aircraft and water dropping equipment can be one of the many tools used to help suppress and extinguish wildfires that have widespread acreage. 

“We train annually and certify with the forest service crew members that we are ready to go,” said Maj. Joseph Aldrich, Black Hawk aviator pilot with the 2-285th Assault HelicopterBattalion. “Collaborating with National Park Service, Forest Service, and Division of Emergency Management made this a productive year for updating the standard operating procedure and conducting a strong integrated training.”  The integration of the Army National Guard, the Division of Emergency Management, U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service is a cohesive effort aimed at providing a unified response to communities affected by wildfires. Strengthening communication and collaboratively addressing challenges during this exercise allow agencies to be ready and reliable during a real incident.

“It is important to collaborate with other agencies because of capacity,” said Sean Cox, U.S. Forest Service Forest Aviation Officer. “If we exhaust civilian operators and/or municipality operators, the inclusion of the Arizona National Guard helps out the fire environment and all-risk responses. The outcome for this annual exercise is to incorporate the resources of the Arizona Army National Guard into federal, state or local incident command structure seamlessly.”

“By working collaboratively with local, state and federal agencies, DEMA can respond to emergencies and natural disasters affecting the Whole Community with reliable resources and the most capable personnel,” said Anthony Cox, DEMA Operations and Coordination Section Assistant Director. “Interagency response is essential to the well-being of Arizona.”