FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
In the wake of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee declaring a wildfire state of emergency last night, two Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters launched from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, to Fairchild AFB today to fight the wildfire dubbed “The Sheep Creek Fire,” which has consumed more than 20-acres of land so far.
Washington National Guard efforts are currently focused on keeping the fire south of Sheep Creek, located north of Colville National Forest near the United States-Canadian border. Five 20-member local fire-fighting hand crews are already deployed fighting the fire, very soon to be aided by the WNG and its citizen soldiers.
“My day-to-day is warfighting and my full-time job is to make sure all Blackhawk crews are prepared for deployments,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Noel Larson, 96th Aviation Troop Command standardization pilot assigned to JBLM, who has been called upon 7 times to fight fires during his 25 years of military service. “In this situation, we’re here to cool down the wildfires and allow the people on the ground to come out and actually put the fire out.”
Blackhawks are near synonymous with warfighting, but the flexibility and mission set of the WNG allows them to effectively deploy the helicopter to fight fires by delivering more precise water drops than fixed-wing airframes.
None of this would be possible without Fairchild’s staging support.
“[Fairchild] is our closest link to any sort of logistical support we need, whether it be parts, maintenance, changing of personnel or any other needs that may arise,” Larson said.
Everyone is playing a part in this mission, including air traffic controllers, refueling, and other Fairchild personnel and resources, Larson added.
Fairchild is providing the stage while the 96th ATC is providing vital water to combat the Sheep Creek fire.
“We’re going to be flying and dropping water onto fires with all different types of aircraft,” said Army Specialist Noah Marshman, 96th ATC crew chief assigned to JBLM. “This is our bread and butter; being out and fighting fires is a chance to put our training to good use.”
When you join a flight company you don’t join for the cameras and the interviews. You join because you want to fly, do your job and make a difference for people, Marshman continued.
Receiving and staging two Blackhawks is not a typical day for the 92nd and 141st Air Refueling Wings and its mission partners, but what is typical is Team Fairchild’s readiness to support all mobility partners. Team Fairchild’s ability to support and project Air Power at a moments’ notice continues to ensure the success of military missions around the world, both in combat and in humanitarian missions.