California National Guard members displayed extraordinary bravery and courage as they airlifted individuals to safety amid raging wildfires. Pilots characterized the mission as one of “their most dangerous” rescue efforts.
“The conditions were pretty extreme. There were points along the route where…we were just about ready to say that’s enough.” The @CalGuard aircrews who saved 200-plus people from a wildfire last weekend share their experiences making the daring rescue. https://t.co/tajZ48DkOv
— Lt Gen Jon Jensen (@ARNGDirector) September 9, 2020
The daring flight saved more than 200 people from wildfires in the Sierra National Forest the first weekend of September 2020.
The National Guard deployed two helicopters for the rescue, a CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. The helicopters had to fly through intense smoke and flying embers to reach the trapped campers, who had gathered 50 feet away from the raging fire.
Despite being given the option to wait for more ideal flying conditions, both helicopters’ crews decided to push through and rescue the campers. Both aircrews found it easier to navigate through the smoke using their night vision goggles, giving credit to their training and knowledge of the terrain.
On the first flight, the crews realized the severity of the situation and determined they would need to make more than one flight. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joseph Rosamond, who piloted the Chinook, realized they were quickly running out of time.
Both crews decided to pack as many people into their aircraft as possible given their weight allowances. Rosamond stated that their “performance limitations” were extremely close to the helicopters’ “maximum capabilities” of the aircraft.
Making three trips each, the Blackhawk carried about a dozen each time, while the Chinook carried around 50.
America owes a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women in the armed services. Sadly, their work is never completed.
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