OWINGS MILLS, Md. – Maryland Army National Guard helicopters supporting aerial firefighting operations successfully helped suppress the 700-acre brush fire in Baltimore County at the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area.
Civil authorities requested support from the Maryland National Guard and the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade on Tuesday evening after the 8-alarm fire. One UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with a 660-gallon bucket suspended by cable picked up water from the Liberty Reservoir and dropped the water on the blaze about a dozen times before suspending operations around twilight, as it was getting too dark to continue.
The next morning, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with the same aerial water buckets returned to conduct more bucket drops. Over the two days, the aircrew did approximately 45 buckets drops to help contain the fire and suppress remaining hot spots.
“BCoFD’s success in preventing loss of life and property during this unprecedented wildfire is directly linked to the support of our public safety partners across the region,” said Baltimore County Fire Chief Joanne Rund. “The water drops executed by the Maryland National Guard aviation team have been critical to our ability to control and extinguish this fire.”
To reduce time away from aerial firefighting operations, Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers set up a temporary fuel point at Camp Fretterd Military Reservation in nearby Reisterstown so helicopters would not have to return to Weide Army Heliport at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Edgewood, Md.
The Maryland National Guard also managed air operations in the temporary flight restriction on behalf of the incident commander to coordinate the UH-60 Black Hawks, Baltimore County Police helicopters, two civilian helicopters on contract with the Forestry Service from Pennsylvania, and the local news station helicopters in the airspace.
The 29th CAB regularly conducts helicopter water bucket training to backup aviation crews at Aberdeen Proving Ground due to the frequent potential for range fires on the installation. Every Spring the unit conducts training for at least three air crews, which allowed for the Soldiers to quickly respond within the hour of the request.
“The highly trained full-time aircrews from the MDARNG Army Aviation Support Facility are the go-to for immediate response to support civil authorities with aviation capability,” said Maryland Army Guard Col. David Paolucci, State Army Aviation Officer. “I am extremely proud of our crew’s ability to respond quickly when called.”