Our Past | 1994: Chinooks in Waterville?

Selected by Karen Larsen

The following article from the Aug. 11, 1994 edition of The Empire Press discusses an Army fire suppression operation based at the NCW Fairgrounds.

 

Camp Waterville! Army takes over fairgrounds

By Todd Starkweather

Some in Waterville may have thought the new rides had arrived for this year’s fair — but the Army helicopters landing at the fairgrounds were not here for any carnival.

Five 4CH-47D Chinook helicopters landed at the NCW District Fairgrounds last Tuesday, August 2. The 2-B, 214 Aviation Regiment from Fort Lewis, Washington, flew in the helicopters and set up their base of operations. The troops are assigned to help fight fires in the Leavenworth and Chelan areas.

Douglas County Commissioner Paul Blanchard said that the Army regiment signed an agreement allowing them to stay at the fairgrounds from the first of August until the 19th. After the 19th, the fairgrounds will be needed in preparation for the fair, which takes place from the 25th of August until the 28th.

Blanchard said that if the troops need to stay longer they will be moved. The Waterville Airport will be shut down for military use until the regiment has left.

Commissioner Brian Maydole said that a week before the troops arrived, the commissioners’ office had been contacted by the Department of Interior. The Department of Interior had asked the commissioners if the fairgrounds could be evaluated as a possible sight. The evaluation deemed the fairgrounds adequate. “We had all the resources here,” commented Maydole.

Lieutenant Peterson, of the 214 Regiment, said that the number of troops fluctuated between 35 and 40. The regiment’s main purpose was fire suppression operations.

They flew their five Chinook helicopters over the fires and aided in suppressing the fire with water and chemicals. The regiment flew only four helicopters a day. They rotated the helicopters to allow each one a day for maintenance and repairs.

Peterson described the accommodations in Waterville as “quite adequate.” As for how their operations went, “they were successful to a point,” remarked Peterson. He mentioned that the buckets they had to use were very weak and needed repairs.

“We could have been more successful, but there were some political issues which delayed our arrival.” While nothing is guaranteed, Peterson said that they plan to leave on schedule, around the 18th or 19th of August.