Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion 224th Aviation Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, are helping fight wildfires in Madison County.
In the first 24 hours, VNG aviation crews dropped nearly 10,000 gallons of water on the fires.
After Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency Nov. 6, the VNG deployed two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters equipped with 660-gallon water buckets at the request of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to support the Virginia Department of Forestry.
The Guard planned to continue to assist in the firefighting efforts Nov. 8.
“We are extremely proud of how quickly and safely our aviation crews responded to start assisting with aerial fire suppression in Madison County after Governor Youngkin’s emergency declaration,” said Brig. Gen. Todd H. Hubbard, the Virginia National Guard director of the joint staff.
“The role of the National Guard in domestic operations is to provide additional capabilities to partner agencies to help our fellow citizens in times of need, and this is a perfect example of how that works,“ Hubbard said. “The Department of Forestry and firefighting crews from across the region have been battling the fire in Madison County for nearly two weeks, and now our capabilities give them extra resources in the fight. It is an honor to work with such dedicated professionals towards a common goal.”
VNG aviation crews conducted water bucket training in October at Fort Barfoot. Aviation assets can support firefighting efforts using water buckets, which require periodic training for flight crews to ensure proficiency with the equipment.
The training provided currency and qualifications for three flight crews, capitalizing on lessons learned fighting fires during the unit’s deployment to Kosovo in 2022.
During domestic operations, the VNG receives missions from VDEM and responds as part of a multi-agency team with other state and local agencies.