SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Aircrew Sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85 aided the San Diego California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) and the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services (OES) in fighting wildfires throughout the San Diego area.
"We got the call this morning that they wanted to use our aircraft for firefighting, so we manned up," said Cmdr. Lewis Gray, a Navy reserve pilot who flew in the firefighting mission.
Two MH-60S helicopters, each carrying 420 gallons of water and a four-member aircrew team, were launched to help with firefighting efforts Monday afternoon.
"We saw some big fire fronts coming through and we worked on them for three or four hours, we also tried to stop some fires that were heading toward houses," said Gray.
Despite the squadron's personnel and families being directly affected by the fires and mandatory evacuations, HSC-85's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. James Cluxton, said they will continue to work with Cal Fire and support firefighting efforts in San Diego as long as they are needed.
"As we flew around we saw the mountains just taken over by fire, several houses engulfed and some houses were just gone, trees and everything destroyed," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 3rd Class David Estrada, an HSC-85 aircrewman.
Upon returning to the squadron after flying rescue missions Oct. 22, the CalFire representative, Joe Barthol, assigned to fly with HSC-85 said that despite the persistent fires their efforts were effective in battling the flames.
The Navy coordinated with the CDF following the California Cedar Fires of 2003, detailing operating procedures and the type of support the Navy could provide in fire emergencies. This is the second rescue mission that the San Diego-based unit has actively supported the San Diego community.
"I just hope we did enough and made a difference, it's horrible to see what has happened to everybody in the fire-affected areas," said Estrada.
HSC-85, stationed at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) is the only Navy squadron in the area trained in the firefighting mission. However, other squadrons based at NASNI are continuing to support with other helicopter assets for evacuation, search and rescue, and logistical support.
"It's rewarding that we can go out, do some good and save some houses. Any little thing we can do to help makes you feel good at the end of the day," said Gray.
Approximately 165,000 active-duty Sailors, Department of Defense personnel and family members live in the San Diego County area.
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