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We appreciate the praise that we’re getting, but we’re not a godsend or special people. We’re just ordinary people that did our job. This is what we do and we love it.
Irvin Hernandez, Chief Warrant Officer 2

During Labor Day weekend in 2020, the Creek Fire engulfed the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Fresno and Madera counties, threatening nearly 400 residents with massive flames. In response, an emergency evacuation was initiated, prompting the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade of the California National Guard to spring into action.

They deployed two aircrews, one aboard a UH-60M Blackhawk and the other in a CH-47F Chinook, targeting the Mammoth Pool Reservoir for a critical rescue mission.

The operation faced apocalyptic conditions, with fire encircling nearly 200 people in desperate need of evacuation. The Chinook, typically designed to carry around 30, astonishingly evacuated 65 individuals on its first trip, 102 on the second, and 37 on the third, totaling 242 rescues from Mammoth Pools. A subsequent mission two days later rescued another 175 people.

This display of heroism, with soldiers swooping in under dire circumstances, undoubtedly branded these aviators as sky-borne saviors in the eyes of those they rescued.

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