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worked together on many occasions on the ground and in the air, so deconfliction and communication came easy. When the sheriff’s office helicopter deploys to a fire, its ground crew led by Lead Aviation Mechanic and Crew Chief Dan Ijpkemeule deploys as well with two fully equipped ground support personnel and 100 gallons of Jet-A.


Ground personnel are equipped with a 4X4 maintenance vehicle equipped with emergency lights, flash lights, night vision, field maintenance kit, and aviation and agency radios. They are trained to coordinate with local law enforcement and fire agencies to build landing zones, refuel helicopters, and provide air space and water dip site security/surveillance for NVG operations.


This fire burned well into the dark hours. The ground crew and I used NVGs to continue to provide safe, effective firefighting after all other aerial assets had gone home due to the loss of daylight. Intense fire degrades the functionality of NVGs, however techniques learned in Iraq and Afghanistan mitigated the risk of NVG washout created by the bright light of the fire. Night vision goggles for ground support personnel were essential. Without night vision, they could not provide a secure dip site or tell me when the tank was full of water. Night vision is used for distance viewing, and the mirrors are used to confirm a full firefighting tank is too close to use NVGs and too dark for the naked eye. The night vision used by the ground crew allowed them to inform me when the tank was full, and allowed me to remain focused on tasks.


rotorcraftpro.com


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