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Firefighters in the sky

  • Release Date:2015-04-29
  • Source:NASC

Everybody knows to call 119 for firefighters when there is a fire, but not many know there is a department that have been working hard for putting out major fires quietly.
It was the dry season and has not rained for quite a while. In the afternoon of Mar 18 2015, a fire was spotted at compartment 64 of the Baxiangshan forestry zone in Taichung. A few workers might accidentally start this fire while working nearby. The fire was located in a remote mountain area that could be access by foot and it took 4 hours to walk there. Beside, the gradient was more than 50 degrees steep and there were multiple previous landslides, which made the firefighting a challenge. Worried, the Forestry Bureau call National Airborne Service Corps for firefighting helicopters.
Upon receiving the request, 2 UH-1Hs, numbered NA-516 and NA-519, of Squadron 3, 2nd Wing of the Corps (stationed at Chingchuankang Airport, Taichung) took off and headed and arrived at the target area at 17:23. First, the two helicopters scooped water from Dajia River. However, the trees were tall at the target area, the winds were strong and the area was covered in thick smoke, making it difficult for the crews to drop the water they scooped up from the river. After talking to the firefighters on the ground, the crews decided to call in more helicopters before the fire further spread. Instructor Liu, Yi-Hung, who was the pilot of NA-516, said that he found fire at 4 locations via visual inspection. The trees growing at the scene were indigenous Taiwan red pines. The ground was covered in rotten leaves and twigs that were rich in oil. All of these factors led to rapid spreading fire that was difficult to contain.
Mar 19, to save these precious trees, the Corps dispatched one more UH-1H, numbered NA-519, of Squadron 2, 1st Wing (stationed at Songshan Taipei) and a B-234 (stationed at Tainan Airport and numbered NA-602), for the firefighting. However, the strong winds fueled the fire beyond control for a moment. More helicopters were called in from their bases in northern, central and southern Taiwan between Mar 20 and 23 to fight the fire. After 6 days of water dropping, the fire was finally put out. It was estimated 3.2 hectares of forest were burned to the ground.
Liu said that he flew to Dajia River for water and had the rescue specialists of National fire Agency help the crew chief to install the water bucket when he was called for duty. As they arrived at the target area, the chief guided him to drop the water over radio. He had to pay extra attention to nearby power towers and cables in addition to the tall trees as there were several TPC’s microwave towers at the scene. As they flew into the target area, the helicopter had to go through the fire scene that was filled with smoke in order to drop water accurately on the fire. However, the dense smoke swarmed into the cabin, making the crew very uncomfortable. But they still “hung on” to minimize possible losses. Experienced in rescue, Instructor Liu said that no mission is too large or small. When we are needed, we are there to help and get the job done with 100% enthusiasm.