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Military deploys CH-47 Chinook to fight forest fires

At site where the military is committed to providing support to put out forest fires:

Helicopters lifted and dumped water on at-risk areas twelve times over two hours

Military deployed 26 helicopters and 2390 troops to put out forest fires

Troops continued firefighting operations around the clock, living on the site for four days

Military deploys CH-47 Chinook to fight forest fir


“One minute to take-off!”


At the airfield in Uljin, Gyeongsangbuk-do on the afternoon of March 7, the fourth day after the outbreak of huge forest fires, the intense sound of the rotors means that these helicopters belonging to the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the Army Aviation Command, including the CH-47 Chinook helicopters, are ready to take off. The helicopters will be putting out fires from the air in the Uljin and Samcheok forest fire areas, where the main fire has yet to be extinguished.


The AAC provided helicopters and troops to the areas hit by forest fires immediately after they broke out on March 4. That very day, it sent nine airplanes, including five Chinook helicopters and four UH-60 helicopters. The soldiers are committed to putting out the forest fires, staying on-site for four days. Many were called into action so quickly that they weren't even able to properly pack their clothes. Despite the intensity of the operations, they are getting over their tiredness and staying focused.


Five soldiers, including two pilots, one engineer, and two crew members, ride in the Chinook helicopter. The helicopter repeats the operation of lifting and dumping water on the forest fire areas after fixing a ‘Bambi Bucket (water bucket)’ in the lower part of the helicopter.


About ten minutes after take-off, the helicopter arrived at the water reservoir, Wangpicheon River, which is located in Uljin-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do. The engineer started his work. The pilots began to become stressed. For a helicopter, lifting water is not an easy task. To lift water, the helicopter needs to hover, keeping its balance at a certain altitude.


With the pilots and the engineer communicating by radio, the helicopter made minute movements in every direction to lift the water. Clouds of spray came up from the river due to the wild wind kicked up by the spinning helicopter rotor. The helicopter needed to take on the maximum amount of water it could manage considering weight and volume, while ensuring there were no difficulties in maneuvering. The Chinook helicopter can lift about five tons of water.


The helicopter gained altitude right after finishing its water-lifting operation. Another helicopter was approaching the area to lift water. Having watched the left and right sides, the two crew members looked carefully around the area. The helicopter finally reached the air above the area on which the water was to be dumped. In the area around Shinlim-ri, Uljin-eup, Uljin-gun, the main fire has yet to be brought under control due to strong winds. The area was still filled with smoke. A blackened ridge was dimly visible through the smoke. It must be put out.


The pilot sent a signal using a radio headset. This signal meant that the helicopter was about to dump water. Dumping water onto a forest fire is even more difficult and delicate work than lifting water. The pilot needs to take into account the altitude of the helicopter, the wind direction, and the wind velocity, as well as the location and intensity of the flame. Fortunately, the pilot had secured a clear view that day. On March 4 and 5, when the wind was strong, it was difficult to tell where the fire had started, as black smoke soared up into the sky.


The engineer lay with his face toward the opening in the helicopter to dump the water after checking visually, pushing the button at just the right time. Water was dumped after a while, right onto the forest fire area where smoke was being generated. After checking it, the helicopter returned to the water reservoir. Keeping in touch with the command headquarters to share information, the helicopter repeatedly lifted and dumped water on forest fire areas twelve times over about two hours.


“Our approach to this operation is to consider this place as the site of the battle. We will do our best as members of the people’s armed forces until the forest fires are put out,” Pilot Warrant Officer Kim Ju-do said.


Our military continued the firefighting operation without a break on March 7. The military sent 2390 troops and 26 helicopters to put out the forest fires. The military also plans to provide vacation time to soldiers from the affected areas, as well as support for residents, as the government declared the Uljin and Samcheok areas special disaster zones.

By Chul-Hwan, Kim < >

By Hyun-woo, Seo <>

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