Colombian Air Force Helps Fight Forest Fires

Colombian Air Force Helps Fight Forest Fires

By Dialogo
February 24, 2015





The Colombian Air Force (CAF) is playing an important role in fighting forest fires throughout the country.

Fires have occurred in almost 80 percent of the country and have destroyed thousands of hectares, mostly virgin vegetation and natural forests, according to authorities. Some regions are particularly susceptible to fires because of the weather pattern known as El Niño, which can create warmer and drier than usual conditions in different parts of the world.

Since early January, the CAF has been cooperating with firefighters, the Colombian National Army, National Police, Red Cross, Civil Defense, Risk Management Unit, and local municipalities to stop forest fires in the departments of Antioquia, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander, Risaralda, and Magdalena.

The CAF uses a variety of equipment to help extinguish forest fires, such as an artificial pool with the capacity to store 10,000 gallons of water with retardant chemicals to fight fires. Its helicopter pilots also use a water carrier known as a Bambi Bucket, which can hold 900 liters, to drop on flames.

Previous FAC efforts to help fight fires


The CAF has played an important role in efforts to halt forest fires in Colombia in recent years.

In January, the Air Force sent helicopters from the Fifth Air Combat Command to fight two of the most dangerous, active conflagrations on record in the country in Boyacá Department. The Army, National Police, Civil Defense, and other agencies also cooperated in fighting the Boyacá fires, using the National Disaster Prevention and Response System.

The CAF also helped extinguish another fire in October covering nearly 100 hectares in Boyacá Department. They responded at the request of Mayor Pablo Solano and were able to protect the municipality of Floresta's water sources.

Similarly, in March 2014, it responded quickly to forest fires that broke out in the municipality of Malambo, Atlántico Department. There, strong winds spread the fire quickly.

CAF commanders deployed a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which was able to transport 600 gallons of water in a Bambi Bucket. Nearby water sources were too shallow to deploy the Bambi Bucket effectively, so the commander of the Third Air Combat Command at the time, Colonel David Barrero Barrero, sent a C-95 aircraft with a 5,000-gallon portable pool that could be filled by a tanker.

Air Force trains with firefighters


In addition to helping fight fires, the Air Force also trains civilian firefighters.

For example, in early February, the Fourth Air Combat Command trained a group of volunteer firefighters from the Department of Cundinamarca in techniques to guide the aircraft that would support ground missions with a focus on increasing efforts in the event of forest fires, natural disasters, or catastrophes.

The four days of training included theory lessons on meteorology, cartography, risk management, rescue equipment, fire extinguishing systems, and dangers during emergencies. The lessons were a prelude to practical exercises performed at the Luis F. Pinto Air Base in Melgar, Tolima Department.

Volunteer firefighters from municipalities including Nilo, Tocaima, Anapoima, La Mesa, Mosquera, and Bogotá participated in an exercise involving a simulated forest fire in which firefighters guided a helicopter equipped with a Bambi Bucket. During the training exercise, the pilot released water from the Bambi Bucket four times, using specific coordinates.

The second exercise concerned rescuing people trapped by forest fires. The exercise simulated rescuing people from an area that was difficult to access. The firefighters needed to signal to helicopter crews carrying a tow system the exact location to rescue the victims. The exercise ended with the successful extraction of the injured people.

Air Force firefighters train in the United States


Ongoing training is a key component of the CAF's mission to help fight fires.

In late January, 10 members participated in special training at the University of Texas Training Center, in Laredo. Specialized personnel such as chiefs of security operations, fire chiefs, and aeronautical firefighters attended the 10 days of training and acquired fundamental skills to face a real emergency in the event of an airplane fire. The sessions included simulations of fires and rescues, as well as international protocols for fires in turbines and airplanes.

Strong ties to the civilian population


By helping to extinguish fires, the CAF has developed a close relationship with the civilian population.

It has also helped the civilian population in a variety of other ways, according to retired Colonel Michel Martínez Poinsenet, from the Colombian Army’s Military Intelligence branch and a member of the Colombia chapter of the Security and Defense Network of Latin America (RESDAL).

“An example of this is the Eastern Air Group which, since 1996 (in Marandúa, Vichada), has been able to construct waste water treatment plants, potable water plants, water bottling plants, solid waste management plants, and has led public awareness campaigns and Project Marandúa," said Col. Martínez Poinsenet. Project Marandúa focuses on the production and usage of air, water, and food.

The CAF also helps the civilian population by helping preserve and protect the environment.

For example, air base personnel help collect trash and recyclables in various ecologically important sites. Air Force personnel also participate in quarterly discussions and environmental awareness campaigns on subjects such as global warming, care and protection of the environment, reforestation, how to save water and use it efficiently, and the prevention of illegal trafficking in controlled species.

The Air Force “continues to develop significant projects in science and technology to develop multi-purpose aircraft and other maintenance projects, not only for defense but also for national integration through the aeronautical industry,” Martínez Poinsenet said.




The Colombian Air Force (CAF) is playing an important role in fighting forest fires throughout the country.

Fires have occurred in almost 80 percent of the country and have destroyed thousands of hectares, mostly virgin vegetation and natural forests, according to authorities. Some regions are particularly susceptible to fires because of the weather pattern known as El Niño, which can create warmer and drier than usual conditions in different parts of the world.

Since early January, the CAF has been cooperating with firefighters, the Colombian National Army, National Police, Red Cross, Civil Defense, Risk Management Unit, and local municipalities to stop forest fires in the departments of Antioquia, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander, Risaralda, and Magdalena.

The CAF uses a variety of equipment to help extinguish forest fires, such as an artificial pool with the capacity to store 10,000 gallons of water with retardant chemicals to fight fires. Its helicopter pilots also use a water carrier known as a Bambi Bucket, which can hold 900 liters, to drop on flames.

Previous FAC efforts to help fight fires


The CAF has played an important role in efforts to halt forest fires in Colombia in recent years.

In January, the Air Force sent helicopters from the Fifth Air Combat Command to fight two of the most dangerous, active conflagrations on record in the country in Boyacá Department. The Army, National Police, Civil Defense, and other agencies also cooperated in fighting the Boyacá fires, using the National Disaster Prevention and Response System.

The CAF also helped extinguish another fire in October covering nearly 100 hectares in Boyacá Department. They responded at the request of Mayor Pablo Solano and were able to protect the municipality of Floresta's water sources.

Similarly, in March 2014, it responded quickly to forest fires that broke out in the municipality of Malambo, Atlántico Department. There, strong winds spread the fire quickly.

CAF commanders deployed a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which was able to transport 600 gallons of water in a Bambi Bucket. Nearby water sources were too shallow to deploy the Bambi Bucket effectively, so the commander of the Third Air Combat Command at the time, Colonel David Barrero Barrero, sent a C-95 aircraft with a 5,000-gallon portable pool that could be filled by a tanker.

Air Force trains with firefighters


In addition to helping fight fires, the Air Force also trains civilian firefighters.

For example, in early February, the Fourth Air Combat Command trained a group of volunteer firefighters from the Department of Cundinamarca in techniques to guide the aircraft that would support ground missions with a focus on increasing efforts in the event of forest fires, natural disasters, or catastrophes.

The four days of training included theory lessons on meteorology, cartography, risk management, rescue equipment, fire extinguishing systems, and dangers during emergencies. The lessons were a prelude to practical exercises performed at the Luis F. Pinto Air Base in Melgar, Tolima Department.

Volunteer firefighters from municipalities including Nilo, Tocaima, Anapoima, La Mesa, Mosquera, and Bogotá participated in an exercise involving a simulated forest fire in which firefighters guided a helicopter equipped with a Bambi Bucket. During the training exercise, the pilot released water from the Bambi Bucket four times, using specific coordinates.

The second exercise concerned rescuing people trapped by forest fires. The exercise simulated rescuing people from an area that was difficult to access. The firefighters needed to signal to helicopter crews carrying a tow system the exact location to rescue the victims. The exercise ended with the successful extraction of the injured people.

Air Force firefighters train in the United States


Ongoing training is a key component of the CAF's mission to help fight fires.

In late January, 10 members participated in special training at the University of Texas Training Center, in Laredo. Specialized personnel such as chiefs of security operations, fire chiefs, and aeronautical firefighters attended the 10 days of training and acquired fundamental skills to face a real emergency in the event of an airplane fire. The sessions included simulations of fires and rescues, as well as international protocols for fires in turbines and airplanes.

Strong ties to the civilian population


By helping to extinguish fires, the CAF has developed a close relationship with the civilian population.

It has also helped the civilian population in a variety of other ways, according to retired Colonel Michel Martínez Poinsenet, from the Colombian Army’s Military Intelligence branch and a member of the Colombia chapter of the Security and Defense Network of Latin America (RESDAL).

“An example of this is the Eastern Air Group which, since 1996 (in Marandúa, Vichada), has been able to construct waste water treatment plants, potable water plants, water bottling plants, solid waste management plants, and has led public awareness campaigns and Project Marandúa," said Col. Martínez Poinsenet. Project Marandúa focuses on the production and usage of air, water, and food.

The CAF also helps the civilian population by helping preserve and protect the environment.

For example, air base personnel help collect trash and recyclables in various ecologically important sites. Air Force personnel also participate in quarterly discussions and environmental awareness campaigns on subjects such as global warming, care and protection of the environment, reforestation, how to save water and use it efficiently, and the prevention of illegal trafficking in controlled species.

The Air Force “continues to develop significant projects in science and technology to develop multi-purpose aircraft and other maintenance projects, not only for defense but also for national integration through the aeronautical industry,” Martínez Poinsenet said.
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