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#5. Always conduct after-action reviews (AARs) — It is easier to remember all the details when the event is fresh in your mind. The AAR from this fire brought several items to light that need improvement:





If you can use foam on a fire, do it. Since this fire, we have developed a foam injection system for our fire tank, making our drops five times more effective.


• We have identified the need for two boxes of red chem sticks to easily mark obstacles; red is used because it is the most visible color under NVGs.


• Ground crew uniforms need reflective material or reflective vests due to the high number of vehicles moving on-scene.


• •


Develop a relocation plan if the fire gets too close to the refueling spot; this should be briefed on arrival.


Bring water, snacks, bug spray, and window-washing supplies because ash, smoke and water will quickly turn to mud and obstruct vision, especially while using night vision.


• •


Have a ground support checklist. Just like the aircraft, the ground support personnel should have a checklist for deploying to a scene.


If possible, install a radio in the ground support vehicle to ensure you are not reliant on battery power. Have a way for the aircrew to directly communicate with the ground crew without interfering with fire radio channels. This can be as simple as a handheld air-band radio for the ground crew.


• A handheld air-band radio has the added benefit of being able to communicate with the crews without the need of a repeater. This particular fire was out of our county, and our normal channels were unavailable because we were outside of our repeater’s range.


• Take the ground crew up to verify dip sites before dark. This eliminates any miscommunication and verifies any hazards.


With these takeaways, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit will be even more prepared to safely serve its community when called upon for its next mission, and we hope your aviation unit learns from our experience.


About the author: Shane is an 8-year veteran of the U.S. Army with deployments to OIF and OEF as an OH-58D scout pilot/instructor. After leaving active service, he was a primary flight instructor at Ft. Rucker, the home of Army Aviation. Shane then moved to the U.S. State Department where he served as a UH-1HII air mission commander for the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau. He then transitioned to the counter narcotics global support team where he served as an MI-17 instructor pilot. He also served as a lead pilot for an air ambulance company in New Mexico before becoming the chief pilot at the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, where he continues to serve his community.


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