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Forest Service, National Guard training over Stanly County

NEW LONDON — The N.C. Forest Service, in cooperation with the N.C. National Guard and State Parks, is holding air operations training at Camp John J. Barnhardt in New London this week.

People in the area can expect to see helicopters flying over the camp and Morrow Mountain State Park through Thursday.

Students will learn the skills necessary to safely and effectively run an active helicopter base with multiple missions at the same time. Helicopters are used in operations such as prescribed fires and wildfires.

As part of the training, students also will learn about proper methods of connecting Bambi Buckets used to drop water on a fire, long line used to bring supplies to firefighters on the fire line, and the use of aerial ignition devices.

These devices dispense a plastic sphere, often referred to as a “ping-pong ball,” from a helicopter. Before the launching of the “ping-pong ball,” the devices inject a liquid chemical into the sphere, which contains a dry chemical, causing a delayed chemical reaction that results in an ignition after it lands in the area that fire managers want to burn.

The spheres are often used to light a backing fire to burn out forest fuel, such as underbrush and woody debris, between a fire line and the main fire. They can also be used to light a prescribed fire in places difficult to access by foot.

Weather permitting, students will get a firsthand understanding of how the ignition devices work during training planned throughout the week on private woodlands close to Camp Barnhardt and Morrow Mountain State Park, near Albemarle.

Lodging and lunches for the training is being provided by the N.C. National Guard Training Center in New London.

There are plans for a state emergency training center in this location, the first of its kind in North Carolina. The center will have a fire and rescue training facility. The project is a joint venture between the National Guard, the N.C. Office of State Fire Marshal and Stanly Community College.

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