Lifestyle

Firefighting Blackhawk Pilots Thankful to Blount County Family

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Blackhawk pilots from the Army National Guard, as well as most of Blount County, owe the Chesney family a huge debt of gratitude. Firefighting helicopters will collect water from any source safely available to them, and this week, that’s exactly what they did when they spotted the Chesney’s stock pond.

According to WBIR News, Larry Chesney said, “The helicopters started coming in on Monday. It would take the helicopter four minutes to get the water, drop it on the fire, and come back again.” He added, “We just stocked that pond with fish a couple of weeks ago, so I guess those fish are somewhere up on the mountain.”

Firefighting Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter dips a Bambi Bucket into a lake for water to fight a wildfire

Photo: Wikimedia/Michigan National Guard

While some people would get angry at what they could consider theft of their valuable resources, the Chesney family turned it into a chance to help. “We thought we might need to replenish the pond because it was almost dry,” said Larry Chesney.  “We ran a bunch of hoses from the house to the pond and turned them on full blast. They’ve been running non-stop since Monday. As long as they [the pilots] wanted to keep getting water here, we wanted to do anything we could to help.”

“We’ll definitely never forget it. When the helicopter flies in, you get behind a pole or a tree because it will almost knock you down with the wind and the water spray. I got wet and sandblasted at the same time,” said Hilda Martin Chesney.

Mrs. Chesney did laughingly ask one of the pilots if they did windows because the helicopters had covered hers with water and dirt. Their home resides on farmland that has been in her family for more than one hundred years.

Blount County Wildfire

Photo: @SusanSWhomever

Helicopter pilots with the 1-230th Army National Guard were blown away by the Chesney’s generous assistance.

“It is definitely a first for me,” said pilot BJ Koons. “I mean, most people wouldn’t want us to dry their pond out.  In this situation, there’s a lot of land up here on fire. There are houses at stake. Them running water hoses to the pond really helped out a lot. This pond is a few minutes closer than our other main source at Perry’s Mill Dam. Getting water from here saved a lot of time and gas, so we can drop more buckets to help fight the fire.”

Blount County Fire in Forest

Photo: Wate

The Tuckaleechee Utility District, who provides water for the Chesney family, has said they will work with the family on what understandably will be a huge water bill. Colonel Patrick Wade of the 1-230th Army National Guard feels the community and the state should reward the Chesney’s. Without their kind and generous help, several cabins in the area would have been lost to the fire. Perhaps the Tuckaleechee Utility District can start by forgiving the water bill completely.

What was originally a 600-acre forest fire has grown to encompass more than 900 acres. According to the Division of Forestry, the fire was 40% contained as of December 2, 2016. The recent rains have also helped aid in quenching the wildfires.