1159th Rescues Firefighter

By Tech.Sgt. Mark Olsen, NJDMAVA/PA, photos by Sgt. 1st Class Declan Callan, NJDMAVA/PA

Blackhowk drop water on fireOn Aug. 15, a Detachment 1, 1159th Medical Company aircrew rescued a firefighter while fighting a forest fire at Ft. Dix.

During the operation, Ft. Dix Firefighter Bradley Ponto became separated from his team. Ft. Dix fire officials requested that the 1159th aircrews search for their firefighter.

UH-60 Blackhawk aircrew 1st Lt. Joseph Roughneen, Chief Warrant Officer 3 James denHartog, and Sgt. Jeff Loffredo located the firefighter in an area nearly surrounded by the fire. After directing the firefighter toward the closest landing zone the helicopter landed and crewchief Sgt. Loffredo got out and led the firefighter to the aircraft. Shortly after the rescue the fire consumed the area where the firefighter had been stranded.

Fire officials requested the help of the New Jersey Army National Guard because portions of the fire were inaccessible from the ground due to terrain, the fire was consuming hundreds of acres of forest, and its proximity to the Impact Area.

New Jersey Army National Guard personnel from the Army Aviation Support Facility #1, located at Trenton-Mercer Airport, refitted three UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters with 660 gallon Bambi Buckets. These bright flourescent orange buckets, which are suspended below the aircraft, are lowered into lakes or ponds, filled with water, and flown to the fire. The buckets, when filled, add 6,000 pounds to the aircraft. The Blackhawks were joined by a UH-1 Huey from Army Aviation Support Facility #2 with a 240-gallon water bucket. The aircrews fought the fire both day and night, using night vision goggles, for the two days. After three days, 408 drops with a total of 213,336 gallons of water, the blaze was under control.