National Guard crews return to base from Spring Fire


VALLEY - The Spring Fire incident commander has released the Colorado National Guard helicopter and helibase support crews, who had been supporting fire response efforts in Colorado’s Huerfano and Costilla counties.

The crews and helicopters, equipped with aerial water buckets, from 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, based at the Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter Army Aviation Support Facility on Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, arrived July 2, and conducted firefighting operations until July 10, dropping more than 462 aerial water buckets on the fire in nearly 60 flight hours.

This included a unit daily high of 113 buckets July 9, using two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters flying for a combined 10 hours. The 462 buckets of water is roughly 208,000 gallons or 1.7 million pounds. To put it into perspective, a 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pool holds approximately 660,000 gallons.

The success of the team was largely due to the forward refueling point, operated by CONG members of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation, who provided support to CONG aircraft fighting the fire. This support kept the crews flying by saving more than 30 minutes during refueling because the crews could refuel without shutting down or flying to a more distant airport.

The CONG’s 1157th Engineer Company (Firefighters) provided 10 members for fire suppression support at the Spring Fire helibase, in Fort Garland.

“I’m proud of the support provided by our aviation and helibase support crews. Their work provided a significant contribution to the overall response,” Director of the Joint Staff U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Gregory White, and commander of Joint Task Force - Centennial, said. “As long as we are needed, we will continue to support security efforts on the ground to safeguard communities near the Spring Fire.”

The incident commander and the sheriffs of Huerfano and Costilla counties continue to employ more than 50 CONG members, who assist with traffic control points, roving patrols, area escort and general security.

The CONG has also been providing an aviation search and rescue standby capability in support of the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center since June 30. The 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment supported the mission, out of the CW5 David R. Carter Army Aviation Support Facility on Buckley Air Force Base, from June 30 until called to fight the Spring Fire July 2. The High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site facility in Gypsum, Colorado, has support the mission since July 2, which is rapid response to aviation search and rescue missions, primarily for firefighter safety, in support of multiple wildfire responses throughout Colorado.

On order of the governor, the standing Joint Task Force - Centennial, led by Brig. Gen. White, commands and integrates CONG forces to support civil authorities in assisting Colorado, or supported states, during times of crisis and disaster, to save lives, prevent suffering, and mitigate great property damage.

Caption: The 1157th Engineer Company (Firefighters) from the Colorado National Guard conduct a training exercise at the Spring Creek Fire helipad in Fort Garland on July 6./Courtesy photo by Tech. Sgt. Dixie Manzanares

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