For some parts of the country, wildfire season is starting to ramp up. There was a time when Helicopter Firefighting was relegated to the months of summer, but not so anymore with many fires kicking off in early spring and late into the fall. That said, although some regions don’t experience the widespread and lingering effects from wildfires others do, burn bans are in effect all across the United States. And the extreme heat is not making current firefighting attempts any easier. Firefighting teams have started to implement special training sessions incorporating helicopters to get ahead of issues that could arise for lack of instruction or readiness later.
Emergency helicopters have been used widely in delivering aerial support during wildfires to not only treat or extinguish fires but additionally in the transport of crew and equipment. Recently, crews in the Northwest US took part in the Eastern Washington Interagency Fire Training Academy where trainees spent 16 hours working to effectively and more rapidly load equipment onto helicopters.
Although they were not engaged in training to extinguish fires, the chief of operations indicated the loading of equipment is equally as important in firefighting efforts overall.
Chief Jim Walkowski was quoted as saying, “The crew is tasked with basically the safety of the aircraft, in this case, the helicopter and then secondarily, making sure all the operations on the ground are being performed safely.”
According to Walkowski, the training consisted of crews packing and loading firefighting and rescue equipment into cargo nets. The cargo nets are used to hold tools firefighters use regularly to fight fires and the helicopters are utilized to transport the tools as close as possible to firefighters who may need them.
The chief said the training they engaged in will not only ensure equipment won’t be lost in the transportation of it, but also will improve the firefighter’s effective communication with the helicopter pilot to coordinate a safe and secure location for tool drops. He additionally said the instruction and training will promote safety and efficiency in situations where time is of the essence.
The training is expected to wrap up this weekend, but crews all over the country are participating in their version of instruction to prepare for the upcoming fire season. Helicopters are used in the widespread treatment of wildfires as a result of their maneuverability and capabilities. They can fly swiftly into more difficult to access locations than fixed-wing aircraft and into places where infrastructure is left wanting and there are no roads for trucks to travel on.
They can also hover effectively and achieve lower elevation flights to drop water or retardant on fires, as well as transport crews, tools, and are used often in the rescue and retrieval of injured parties during wildfires.
FairLifts can coordinate emergency response or firefighting helicopters 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The helicopter response is generally prepared to fly in less than 2 hours.