Members of the 174th Attack Wing from Syracuse’s Hancock Field are in Southern California helping fight the massive wildfires there.
A crew of nine from the 174th, including pilots, sensor operators and intelligence analysts, are supplementing the team from the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside California, just outside Los Angeles.
“When the call came in within 24 hours we had volunteers on airplanes heading out to California to support it.” 174th Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Will McCrink tells NewsChannel 9.
Just so happens the Guard unit near LA flies the same aircraft as the 174th, the MQ9 Reaper.
While the unmanned aircraft can’t dump any water on the fire its high-tech sensor on the bottom of the plane can easily see through all the thick smoke to what’s happening on the ground.
McCrink explains, “They’re there constantly looking at it and they’ll see those changes and they can help redirect the effort where it needs to go as opposed to the guys come off the mountain that night and go back out and spend a couple hours trying to find where the fire line is we’re able to direct them exactly where it is.”
He says because the MQ9 is unmanned it can stay up in the air 24/7 feeding back live video data to fire commanders on the ground so they can put their limited resources where they’ll matter most.
“We train crews for the combat missions however those same skills can be transferred to domestic operations.” McCrink says.
The crew of nine went out Wednesday and are supposed to come home next Friday unless they’re extended.
The 174th is also prepared to send another crew out there if necessary.