Texas National Guard aids firefighters

CAMP MABRY ­ Texas National Guard helicopters were called in to assist in the wildfire that erupted in north Bexar County on Thursday.

In the Bulverde area, heavy winds caused large grass fires to take hold once again, and the Austin Army Aviation Support Facility launched Black Hawks to assist the firefighters on the ground.

Three of the National Guard's seven Black Hawks assigned to fire prevention assisted in Bexar County.

Black Hawks are capable of dousing the fire with 660 gallons of water in one overpass, and can fly up to 2-1/2 hours between refueling.

The bucket is filled in the nearest body of water to the fire. The bucket has a hole in the bottom that is plugged with a plunger that is pulled once the aircraft is over the fire.

The aircraft can lay down a line of water, by stretching out the dousing for up to four or five seconds, or can concentrate the entire 660 gallons on one spot.

The aircraft typically fly at an altitude of 70 feet at 70 miles an hour, which usually places the bucket 50 feet above the trees. It also can hover over one area to douse a single tree.

Lt. Col. James Kenyon, aviation commander, explained that, in the case of the San Antonio area grass fires, the aircraft will take in water from either Canyon Lake or a farmer's stock tank or pond, whichever is closer. Kenyon could not confirm that water from Canyon Lake was used to combat the fire in Bexar County, but noted that Black Hawks would certainly use the lake to refill in the event of a wildfire in the area.

According to the weather forecasts, rain is not on the horizon for at least the next seven to 10 days, so the Texas National Guard will continue supporting the Unites States Forest Service until no longer needed.

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