Volunteer National Guard pilots help fight wildfires - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports


Volunteer National Guard pilots help fight wildfires

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Volunteers from all over the state and the U.S. are stepping help to help fight the wildfires spreading throughout the Tennessee Valley and in Georgia, including pilots with the National Guard. 

As the fires continue to burn, helicopters are continuing to dump more than 700 gallons of water over the flames multiple times during the day. An effort that is made possible with the help of volunteer pilots, like National Guard Major Casey Lodes and Captain Derek Travers. 

"It's an opportunity for us to get to come out and help the fellow citizens of Tennessee so that's exactly what we're trying to do out here by providing as many resources out here as we personally can," Lodes said. 

As a reconnaissance pilot, he and Travers help map out the characteristics of the fires, in order to gauge where forestry service workers, TEMA workers and firefighting crews should dump water effectively.

"What we're trying to do is make sure nothing is shifting. Is it shifting drastically? Is it kind of doing what they think it's gonna do? And then they can in turn make the decisions they need to on where to relocate those assets to," Lodes said. 

The thick layer of smoke has been a challenge for many of us on the ground, but Lodes said it hasn't been a problem for crews in the air. He said though the visibility has been good, crews are still focusing to make sure they don't interfere with any other planes flying. 

"It appears to be getting better, but there are definitely multiple fires out there that seem to be popping up potentially in other locations, so there's definitely progress being made. You don't see the smoke building quite as much, but there's still a long way to go," Lodes said.

A long and exhausting battle, Lodes and many others who are lending a hand, are proud to be a part of. They have vowed to stay and help fight the fires for as long as they're needed. 

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