Hundreds of liters of water and fire retardant were dropped yesterday in the Aerial Fire Fighting Unit’s Fall Exercise. During the exercise, an alert of a real fire came in, to which all of the forces were directed

Talya Yariv

While we say a final goodbye to the summer, the IAF will say goodbye to the Aerial Fire Fighting Unit which will become the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Security. In preparation for the transition, the unit’s Fall inspection was performed alongside its soon-to-be new personnel from the Police Aviation Unit for the first time. The inspection, which began in the early morning and was concluded upon last light, trained all of the firefighting aircraft that the unit operates in four positions in northern Israel.

The Aerial Fire Fighting Unit’s Fall Exercise

Photography: Talya Yariv

The civilian companies that operate the aircraft also trained alongside the unit and mission management from the Mishmar Ayalon Police Base (the base to which the unit will be transferred in two months) was tested for the first time. “The transition seasons bring complex weather and strong dry east winds which fan any small fire very quickly”, explained Lt. Col. Eran, Commander of the Aerial Fire Fighting Unit. “We held a readiness inspection in preparation for the fall which united and prepared the entire firefighting division”.

The Aerial Fire Fighting Unit’s Fall Exercise

Photography: Talya Yariv

Communication First
Early in the day, the unit’s personnel drew conclusions from the Biriya Forest Fire which occurred in the passing April and threatened the adjacent IAF AFB. Two pairs of firefighting aircraft dropped fire retardant down the mountain under the base and by doing so, ensured its protection in the case of a fire. Later in the day, the firefighting aircraft rehearsed dropping foam in a number of positions in the north, as a simulation of a large scale forest fire.

Lt. Tommy Aloni, a field officer in the unit and the planner of the inspection, described: “The fireman in the field identifies the fire and calls the national hotline and they send additional teams to the field and check if there is need for aerial support. In the event that there is, we receive the request and dispatch the aircraft. The fireman in the field needs to understand the size and location of the fire and deduce if there is need for aerial support, therefore, the communication between us and the fireman in the field is important”.

The Aerial Fire Fighting Unit’s Fall Exercise

Photography: Talya Yariv

This is not a drill
During the inspection, an alert of a real-time fire was received – to which the forces and aircraft were directed. The fire was a real time example of the scenarios the unit had rehearsed in the exercise. 12 firefighting aircraft were deployed to the fire, they performed 58 sorties and dropped about 150,000 liters of water and fire retardant. “The alert changed our plans for the rest of the inspection. Nature is stronger than us”, shared Lt. Col. Eran. “Operational activity is always our first priority and it might have changed our plan, but it also fit like a glove. We directed all of the aircraft to the location of the fire in which we also scrambled a police helicopter from the Mishmar Ayalon base and as a result, we were able to achieve the goals of the exercise in operational activity”.

The Aerial Fire Fighting Unit’s Fall Exercise

Photography: Talya Yariv