New York Army Guard helicopter crews conduct fire bucket training at Hamlin State Park

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CH-47 helicopters will pick up water in 600-gallon buckets and dump it into Lake Ontario to simulate wildfire suppression

New York Army National Guard crews flying a CH-47F Chinook helicopter will conduct firefighting training over Lake Ontario at Hamlin Beach State Park in Hamlin on Wednesday and Thursday, May 20 and April 21th.

Helicopter crews, who are based at the Patriot Way flight facility in Rochester, will use specially designed water buckets for the plane, known by the brand name Bambi Bucket, to scoop up 1,500 gallons of lake water and practice dropping the water into the lake at the marked points.

Soldiers would use these buckets to fight wildfires at the request of state officials. Crews train each spring to be ready for all potential missions.

Training will take place at Hamlin Beach State Park between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. both days. Three crews of four soldiers will be trained over the two days.

The Army National Guard Aviation Soldiers will be joined by 12 Department of Environmental Conservation Rangers for the training.

Rangers will provide training in firefighting techniques, fire behavior and terminology used by firefighters. They will work with soldiers in helicopters and on the ground.

Army National Guard crews are from Detachment 1, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Air Force. They operate the CH-47F, the Army’s largest helicopter. It can lift over 30 soldiers and carry approximately 28,000 pounds of cargo.

The water will be picked up in a linear flight path parallel to the shore at a distance of 500 to 1,000 feet from the shore. The buckets will be dug in deep water to avoid contact with the bottom of the lake.

Training is necessary because a bucket full of water weighs approximately 12,500 to 13,000 pounds and helicopter pilots must practice flying with this extra weight and losing it quickly when dumping the water in order to fly safely during firefighting operations and in emergencies.

The New York Army National Guard uses helicopter firefighting equipment at the request of state officials. Most firefighting operations are conducted by New York State Police helicopters.

Aircrew from B Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Air Force will also assist the Historica Office of Parks, Recreation and Preservation with the removal of a pontoon from the Niagara River near Goat Island in May.

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