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A CH-53E "Super Stallion" helicopter with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 takes off with a bucket of water June 3. The "Heavy Haulers" completed fire bucket training to prepare to aid fighting wild fires throughout the summer.

Photo by Sgt. Deanne Hurla

‘Heavy Haulers’ train for wild fire season

14 Jun 2010 | Sgt. Deanne Hurla

When wild fires ignite in Southern California, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Marines are ready to help put the flames out.

The “Heavy Haulers” of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 completed fire bucket training June 3. Marines used one CH-53E “Super Stallion” to carry a bucket with 900 gallons of water to aid ground firefighters in extinguishing the flames of a wild fire.

During this training evolution, two firefighters flew on the Super Stallion to assist the pilots and crew chiefs in transporting water to the front of a simulated fire line. The crew chiefs then work in collaboration with the firefighters to release the water.

“They were extremely helpful and knowledgeable,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Wood, a Heavy Haulers crew chief. “They knew the equipment and were really good about telling us when to release the water.”

Upon releasing the water, it is important for the pilots to keep the helicopter at the right altitude. If the water bucket is too close to the ground, the water will hit too hard and potentially scatter the embers. Being at the right altitude will help disperse the water and make it less likely to scatter embers, explained Capt. Stephen Lantz, a pilot with HMH-462, who completed the training.

“I thought it was good training,” Lantz said. “The biggest thing for us is integrating with the firefighters in the back of the helicopter and dropping the water where it’s needed.”

With the aid of helicopters, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Fire Department is able to access areas the fire trucks cannot.

Helicopters help keep the fires from burning into civilian areas, explained Kenneth Hedlund, Camp Pendleton Fire Department captain.

This month the Heavy Haulers are on call to support any wild fire needs that may arise. The squadron has been on standby almost everyday since they assumed this duty, explained Lantz.

Previously in 2007, with no prior training, HMH-462 was called to aid in extinguishing fires on Camp Pendleton and was able to help save one of the base housing areas. The squadron now ensures pilots and crew chiefs receive fire bucket training and classes so they are more prepared should they be called upon again.

“We need fire bucket training just in case we get activated,” said Lantz adamantly. “In 2007, the fires got within four miles of my house. It was scary until they got it under control … We are an extra asset with this training, and it is nice to know we can help. I don’t want to have to save someone’s house, and I hope it never happens, but if it does, we’re here and we’re ready.”