Helicopter pilot officially commended for extracting firefighter in water bucket

You may have heard about the wildland firefighter who was rescued from an approaching fire by climbing into a water bucket below a helicopter and being extracted to safety. The story was first written up on our sister site Wildfire Today on October 1, 2012, and the followup details from a Facilitated Learning Analysis were posted there October 24.

Some of us were wondering what the official response from the U.S. Forest Service would be. Might they throw the book at him for violating the rules? However, I doubt if there is a rule that says “Thou shalt not transport a human in a helicopter’s water bucket”. The USFS is not known for bleeding edge innovation in their aviation program. Most deviation from standard procedure is strongly discouraged. And rightfully so in most cases. You don’t want to screw around with rules that provide for the safety of pilots and firefighters.

Fire Aviation is now able to disclose, with his permission, that the pilot was Joseph Berto. Congratulations to Mr. Berto! He may have saved the life of a firefighter.

Much to our surprise, the USFS officially commended Mr. Berto by presenting to him the following plaque.

Plaque, Berto

The text reads:

=====================================================

Aviation

Pacific Northwest Region

Joseph Berto

Pilot, Helicopter 58HJ

In recognition of your pilot skills and quick reaction

while conducting aerial firefighting operations

on the Pole Creek Fire.

On the 26th of September, 2012, you rescued a firefighter in

need. The fire community commends you for your actions.

In recognition of your special service

to the Pacific Northwest Region’s

Aviation Accident Prevention Program.