As hundreds of firefighters from South Dakota, Nebraska and Northern Wyoming head to Colorado to fight a string of deadly blazes, training is underway in the Southern Black Hills to ensure they are prepared.
Four Black Hawk helicopters and their pilots with the South Dakota National Guard are completing their annual proficiency training. Crews on the ground direct crews in the air to a target that simulates the fire line.
The bucket drops are a cooperative effort between state firefighters and the National Guard.
It's a partnership that's crucial to training for wildfires here at home, and in neighboring states.
"The training today is very realistic. First of all, in any fire you've got wind. You've got affects from the fire itself producing heat which affects the wind greatly. And so, for the guys in the air having a little bit of wind, the training today is a good simulator for them," said Staff Sgt. Michael Beck with the South Dakota National Guard.
"In fact, this guard unit was ready to get called down to Colorado in the last 24 hours but that emergency has gone past. But, we're ready to go for the rest of the season now," said Assistant Chief of Operations for South Dakota Wildland Fire Jim Strain.
114 personnel from South Dakota, Nebraska and Northern Wyoming have been dispatched to Colorado as well as two contract helicopters and eight engines.