Firefighting
1:07 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Kansas National Guardsmen To Battle Colorado Wildfire

A helicopter from the Kansas National Guard's Black Hawk unit headed to Colorado this afternoon to help battle the wildfire that has consumed more than 64 square miles outside of Fort Collins.

The fire, which started Saturday, was 5 percent contained as of this morning, and officials hoped to have it 10 percent contained by the end of the day, KUNC reports, despite today's dry, windy conditions.

The Kansas National Guard received a request through a multi-state network for one of its helicopters with a 660-gallon bucket for transporting water to the flames.

The helicopter will join at least 12 others that have been fighting the flames, along with air tankers and 500 on-the-ground firefighters, according to KUNC's fire coverage. Nine soldiers were scheduled to depart in the helicopter early this afternoon.

The two senior pilots are both native Kansans, according to Lt. Colonel Ronald Chronister, Commander of the 108th Aviation Battalion (rear) of the Kansas National Guard.

Chronister said the difficulty of flying over wildfires is juggling heat, height and weight. In Chronister's words, "part of the state mission is firefighting, and it's something we train for every year."

Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, said in a statement that they "are always ready to help our neighbors when the call comes."

The fire, known as the High Park Fire, started with a lightning strike and has cost at least $1.6 million so far. More than 100 structures have been damaged or destroyed. It is one of the largest fires in Colorado history.