Honduras/USA– A United States (US) Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) task force was called upon to help Honduran personnel contain a large-scale wildfire, highlighting the command’s diverse mission set in South America. A fire started on 29 March 2016 in Jeanette Kawas National Park and began spreading across a significant area, prompting President Juan Orlando Hernández on 31 March 2016 to request US support for the Honduran Fire Department, air force, and army, which were battling the fire with ground assets and two UH-1N Huey helicopters.
SOUTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-Bravo), which is based at Honduras’ Soto Cano Air Base, joined with UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopters and CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters, hoists for stranded citizens, and ‘Bambi Buckets’ to douse the fire with water from Laguna de Los Micos, according to a 3 April 2016 JTF-Bravo report.
Such aid requests are done through the local US embassy, then the US State Department makes a decision and informs the US Department of Defence, which tasks the appropriate command, a SOUTHCOM spokesperson told media.
The support package included two CH-47s carrying Bambi Buckets, one UH-60 with a Bambi Bucket, and one UH-60 with a rescue hoist, all sourced from the 1-228th Aviation Regiment at Soto Cano, the spokesperson added.
“Honduran and US command and control elements reviewed inputs from the ground forces and surveillance from air assets to determine where the fire, which had split into three separate fires by 31 March 2016, needed the most attention,” JTF-Bravo said in its report.
On 2 April 2016 a joint assessment by Honduras’ air force chief of staff and the JTF-Bravo commander “concluded the fire was contained to the point that US support was no longer required”, the task force said.