Forest Service conducts their first short-haul medevac

short-haul medevac

Above: File photo of a Teton Interagency Helitack crew member (on the left) and a Jenny Lake ranger training for short-haul with a packaged “victim” in Grand Teton National Park. NPS photo.

Last week on June 18 a U.S. Forest Service helitack crew conducted the agency’s first short-haul medevac. It occurred on the Trail Mountain Fire in central Utah when a firefighter suffered a leg injury. The location was very remote in steep terrain, which would have made it very difficult for firefighters to carry the victim out. The least hazardous option for extrication was helicopter short-haul in which personnel are carried as external cargo at the end of a rope. They can be flown to or extricated from a remote area.

short-haul extrication
The “X” marks the location of the June 18, 2018 short-haul extrication. USFS photo.

One of the resources assigned to the fire was the Teton Interagency Helitack crew and helicopter, usually based on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming.

Thankfully the injury to the firefighter was not life-threatening. After being flown to a nearby drop point and transported by ground ambulance, the person was treated at a hospital and released.

While the National Park Service has been conducting short-haul medevac extrications for years, the concept is fairly new to the Forest Service. The Teton Interagency crew first became qualified in 2015.

Four other Forest Service helitack modules are also qualified:

  • Wenatchee Helitack, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, R-6;
  • Teton Interagency Helitack, Bridger-Teton National Forest, R-4;
  • Krassel Helitack, Payette National Forest, R-4;
  • Tucson Helitack, Coronado National Forest, R-3;
  • Central Montana Helitack, Helena/Lewis & Clark National Forest, R-1.

A National Park Service article has some of the history of interagency short-haul programs.

5 thoughts on “Forest Service conducts their first short-haul medevac”

  1. Hope the Forest Service continues to develop this program and get more of this capability in the field. It’s a game changer in providing for more rapid treatment of injuried fire fighters.

  2. It would help if folks continue to voice their desire to continue to support and expand this program. It is currently set that the WO will eliminate the Short-Haul specialist position end of December, and there are currently no plans for expansion of the USFS program. I imagine this is in direct opposition from many folks in the field.

    1. How important is the position? They’ve never even short hauled and they hand out check spotter quals like they’re business cards.

      1. That position has kept their program afloat in many aspects and educated more firefighters than the NPS has done in the entirety of its programs. The USFS is way more organized than the NPS in their plans, structure, and unity largely because of that person. The Parks have much to learn and have learned from the person in that position greatly. Yes, the check spotter and spotters are new had to gain the qualification quickly to facilitate the program. Everyone has to start somewhere…and they are well aware they have so much to learn from the NPS and other organizations. The Short-haul Specialist position should be kept and filled to keep the program innovative, deal with the WO politics, and organize the programs.

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