Forest Service conducts their first 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.