STANLY COUNTY – The N.C. Forest Service, in cooperation with the N.C. North Carolina National Guard and N.C. State Parks, is holding an Air Operations Functional Training at Camp John J. Barnhardt in New London, NC this week. Those in the area can expect to see helicopters flying over the area surrounding the camp and Morrow Mountain State Park Tuesday to Thursday.
During this training, students will learn the skills necessary to safely and effectively run an active helicopter base with multiple missions occurring at the same time. Helicopters are used in a variety of operations such as prescribed fires and wildfires. As part of this training students will also learn about the proper methods of connecting Bambi Buckets used to drop water on a fire, longline used to bring supplies to firefighters on the fire-line, and the use of aerial ignition devices. These devices dispense a plastic sphere, often referred to as a “ping-pong ball,” from a helicopter. Before launching the “ping-pong ball” from the helicopter, the device injects a liquid chemical into the sphere, which contains a dry chemical, causing a delayed chemical reaction resulting in an ignition after it lands in the area that fire managers wish to burn. These spheres are often used to light a backing fire to burn out forest fuel, such as underbrush and woody debris, between a fire-line and the main fire. They can also be used to light a prescribed fire in places difficult to access by foot but would benefit from a controlled burn.
Weather permitting, students will get a firsthand understanding of how the ignition devices work during prescribed fire activities being planned throughout the week on private woodlands close to Camp Barnhardt and Morrow Mountain State Park, near Albemarle. Combining these exercises with prescribed fires helps local N.C. Forest Service, and other prescribed fire cooperators, to complete some needed wildland fuel reduction work.
Lodging and lunches for the training is being provided by the North Carolina National Guard Training Center in New London. There are currently plans for a North Carolina Emergency Training Center in this location, the first of its kind in North Carolina. The center will also have a State Fire and Rescue Training Facility. The project is a joint venture between the N.C. North Carolina National Guard, the N.C. Office of State Fire Marshal and Stanly Community College.