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NC Guard Fighting Western Fires

Scott Graf

Members of the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing are again fighting wildfires in the western US this summer. Members of the Charlotte-based unit were first dispatched to Arizona, and are now in Idaho. It's the same unit that lost four crew members in a crash in South Dakota last summer.  

Pilot Kevin Harkey says he's glad to again be dropping retardant on fires, but says he still thinks every day about the aviators who died.

"You want to get back into it because you want those guys' legacy to live on and you want the unit to recover. But at the same time, you do a lot of soul searching yourself and you realize this really is challenging mission," said Harkey.


Credit Scott Graf
L to R: Robert Hegler, Lugoff, SC. Jermaine Parker, Charlotte; Tom Jacky, Matthews, NC.

The C-130 Hercules planes can drop 3,000 gallons of fire-stopping chemicals at one time. But the planes are extremely heavy, relatively slow, and fly in conditions pilots say are the most dangerous outside of military combat.

About a dozen members of the North Carolina Guard are currently stationed at the air base at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

Scott comes to BSPR from WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., where he served as local host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” for the past eight years. He began his new position as Morning Edition Host/Senior Editor for BSPR in 2012.