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Forests in flame, 5 fleets of National Airborne Service Corps on the firefighting mission

  • Release Date:2020-03-04
  • Source:NASC

Three fires broke out in the forests and the National Airborne Service Corps dispatched four fleets on the firefighting missions.

The 81st forest compartment at Qishan, Kaohsiung burst into flame just before nightfall on Mar 2 2020. The remote location made it difficult for anybody to get in. As an effort to save the precious forests, Pingtung Forest District Office in charge of these forests asked the Service Corps for help. The sun was almost down when NASC received the phone call. The mission dispatch made a split-second decision to scramble the AS-365 Dolphin (NA-104) of the 2nd branch, Third Brigade at Xiaogang Airport, Kaohsiung to carry the firefighters of Forest Bureau for an aerial survey. As the AS-365 Dolphin (NA-104) arrived at the site at 16:36, multiple fires were spotted and spreading across a vast area. To make things more difficult, there were the power towers and cables of Taiwan Power Company near Laonong River where the firefighting water is located, and also several poles on which lifelines and buoys were attached. Seeing this, the crew reported back to the HQs. The dispatch on duty gave the heads-up to the crew of UH-60M Blackhawk (NA-709) of 3rd branch, Third Brigade stationed at Fongnien Airport, Taitung for the firefighting at day break, NA-709 took off at 06:57 on Mar 3 for the firefighting. Another Blackhawk, NA-704, was called in for support due to the difficulty in extracting water and fighting the fire.

Around 07:20, another warning was received from the Chukou Station of Forest Bureau in Chiayi indicating more fires breaking out at the Tanayiku Natural Ecology Park. The UH-60M Blackhawk (NA-705, 2nd branch, Third Brigade at Taichung International Airport), which was ready to fly the Qishan mission, was redirected to the park for the firefighting. Arriving at the site at 09:32, NA-705 also spotted multiple fires and, therefore, requested another Blackhawk, NA-702, for backup.

Just as both birds were dumping water on the fires, Nantou Forest District Office called and said a fire broke out at forest compartment 9 of Danda District at 14:23. The dispatch on duty scrambled the AS-365 Dolphin (NA-110) of 1st branch, Second Brigade at Taichung International Airport for an aerial survey. The UH-60M Blackhawk (NA-707) of third branch, first Brigade at Hualien Airport took off for the firefighting mission at 16:16. As the helicopter arrived at the site, the firefighters of Forest Bureau took over on the ground since it was difficult to scoop water from nearby water sources. Therefore, the air crew was put on standby. As NA-707 was on its way back to base, a call was received from Nantou County Police Department saying there was a hiker lost somewhere in the hills. NA-707 was immediately redirected for this assignment and headed to Taroko National Park for the search and rescue mission.

As the fire spread very rapidly across a large area of Danda forest in Nantou and became difficult for the ground crew, the Corps took over the firefighting on Mar 4 by sending the UH-60M Blackhawk (NA-707) of third branch, First Brigade, taking off at 07:25, and the UH-60M Blackhawk (NA-709) of third branch, Third Brigade, taking off at 07:44, for a joint firefighting mission.

As pointed out by the Corps, it is recommended that hikers travel in groups and have an experienced guide to help them for better safety. It is dry out there in the wild recently and hikers are advised to be careful with fire while cooking. It is all about preventing forest fire and protecting the precious woods. There are lots of steep mountains in Taiwan and the terrains are very dangerous. Fighting fire from the ground is very difficult in the case of forest fire. Oftentimes, it relies heavily on helicopters to fire forest fires. However, there are plenty of power towers, power cables, cableways and sky-pointing trees, all of which pose risks to helicopters to extract and dump water. The Corps urges all citizens to love your country and avoid wasting the precious resources.