LA County S-70A Firehawk helicopter suffers a rotor strike during training

LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
LACoFD Firehawk H-16 before Rotor Strike (N160LA). Facebook photo.

One of the S-70A Firehawk helicopters operated by the Los Angeles County Fire Department suffered a rotor strike last week while the personnel were conducting training. Video posted on social media (see below) recorded the event. As Helicopter 16 (N160LA) appeared to be settling down to a landing, a main rotor blade struck a large rock. You can hear the impact and the sound of the helicopter was then very different, changing to a whop-whop-whop that reminded me of the sound of a Huey.

After the impact the ship immediately begin lifting and flew off out of sight. It was later photographed in a field where personnel on a ladder were inspecting one of the main rotor blades.

The knowledgeable person I talked to did not want to have their name disclosed since they were not authorized to discuss the incident in detail.

The helicopter has been repaired and is back in service. The incident occurred around July 30.

LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
LACoFD Firehawk H-16 immediately after a Rotor Strike (N160LA). Facebook photo.
LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
LACoFD Firehawk H-16 after a Rotor Strike (N160LA). Facebook photo.

Warning: the video below that shows the rotor strike has coarse language.

LACoFD Firehawk H-60 Rotor Strike
Mechanics checking out the LACoFD Firehawk H-16 after a Rotor Strike (N160LA). Chad Utt photo.
Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter 16
File photo of Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter 16 (N160LA with the open door) at Barton Heliport in Pacoima, California January 26, 2020. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The two brand new S-70i Firehawks that arrived at the Barton Heliport in Pacoima August 4 are basically ready to fight fire. One is 100 percent ready and the other is undergoing some minor changes to the seats. With this boost to the fleet the LACoFD now has 10 helicopters — 5 Firehawks and 5 Bell 412 ships.


The article was edited August 8, 2020 to show that the helicopter involved in the mishap was an S-70A rather than an S-70i.

LACoFD has two new Firehawks

Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopters 21 and 22
Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopters 21 and 22 arrive at Barton Heliport in Pacoima, California. Photo by @ShorealoneFilms via @MichaelDubron.

With their arrival today at the Barton Heliport in Pacoima, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has two new Firehawk helicopters fully equipped and ready to go. Both of the ships, Helicopters 21 and 22, were converted by Colorado company United Rotorcraft into firefighting machines, with extended landing gear, 1,000 gallon firefighting tanks, and retractable snorkel systems. H-21 was in California last winter, went back to Colorado to  finish the conversion, then came back with it’s sister ship, H-22, today August 4.

Now the LACoFD has 10 helicopters, 5 Firehawks and five Bell 412 ships.

The Department announced in July of last year that they were going to buy two more Firehawks.

Last year we wrote about 14 things to know about Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations.

Firehawk Sikorsky S70I Los Angeles County Fire Department
Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Sikorsky S70I Firehawk, Helicopter 21, being tested Nov. 16, 2019 in Colorado. Photo by Erick Lama for United Rotorcraft.
HAI_2020_Arrivals_HAI
One of Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Firehawks, Helicopter 21, arriving at HAI 2020 in Anaheim, CA January 24, 2020.
HAI HELI-EXPO 2020 Anaheim helicopter
At HAI Anaheim, January 28, 2020, Sikorsky honored three fire departments whose organizations are operating Firehawks; San Diego Fire Rescue, Los Angeles County, and CAL FIRE.
Sikorsky Firehawk H-21
At HAI Anaheim, January 28, 2020, Sikorsky honored three fire departments whose organizations are operating Firehawks; San Diego Fire Rescue, Los Angeles County, and CAL FIRE. LACoFD’s new H-21 is in the background.

Photos of aircraft on the Elephant Butte Fire, part 4 of 5

Today, three large, Type 1 CH54 helicopters

Helicopter 5HT, a CH54 fire N715HT
Helicopter 5HT, a CH54 (N715HT) at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport near Denver during the Elephant Butte Fire. Photo by skippyscage.com.

The Elephant Butte Fire burned about 50 acres on steep terrain southwest of Denver two miles northwest of Evergreen Lake, Colorado. It was reported around 3 p.m. on Monday July 13 and the spread was stopped at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday July 14 by good work from firefighters in the air and on the ground, with a big assist from rain.

Skippyscage.com got some great photos of the aircraft battling the blaze, both while they were over the fire and at the air tanker base at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JEFFCO) northwest of Denver. With his permission, we will showing you some of his shots in five installments.

Today we are featuring CH-54 Type 1 helitankers operated by Helicopter Transport Service manufactured in 1968 and 1969, N715HT, N792HT, and N722HT.

Helicopter 2HT, a CH54 (N722HT)
Helicopter 2HT, a CH54 (N722HT) at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport near Denver during the Elephant Butte Fire. Photo by skippyscage.com.
Helicopter 2HT (N722HT) fire
Helicopter 2HT a CH54 (N722HT) dropping on the Elephant Butte Fire southwest of Denver, July 13, 2020. Photo by skippyscage.com.
Helicopter 92HT, a CH54 (N792HT) fire
Helicopter 92HT, a CH54 (N792HT) at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport near Denver during the Elephant Butte Fire. Photo by skippyscage.com.

Click here to see the series of five installments of photos of aircraft on the Elephant Butte Fire. They will be posted daily from July 17 through July 21, 2020.

Photos of aircraft on the Elephant Butte Fire, part 3 of 5

Today, featuring an AS350B3

Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B (N833PA)
Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B (N833PA) on the Elephant Butte Fire southwest of Denver, July 13, 2020. Photo by skippyscage.com.

The Elephant Butte Fire burned about 50 acres on steep terrain southwest of Denver two miles northwest of Evergreen Lake, Colorado. It was reported around 3 p.m. on Monday July 13 and the spread was stopped at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday July 14 by good work from firefighters in the air and on the ground, with a big assist from rain.

Skippyscage.com got some great photos of the aircraft battling the blaze, both while they were over the fire and at the air tanker base at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (JEFFCO) northwest of Denver. With his permission, we will showing you some of his shots in five installments.

Today we are featuring Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B3, (N833PA) owned and operated by Firehawk Helicopters headquartered in Leesburg, Florida.

Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B (N833PA)
Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B (N833PA) on the Elephant Butte Fire southwest of Denver, July 13, 2020. Photo by skippyscage.com.
Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B (N833PA)
Helicopter 3PA, an AS350B (N833PA) on the Elephant Butte Fire southwest of Denver, July 13, 2020. Photo by skippyscage.com.

Click here to see the series of five installments of photos of aircraft on the Elephant Butte Fire. They will be posted daily from July 17 through July 21, 2020.

This article was updated July 21, 2020 to show that Helicopter 3PA is now owned and operated by Firehawk Helicopters.

Preliminary information released about fatal helicopter crash in Arizona

Bryan Jeffrey Boatman
Bryan J. Boatman

The U.S. Forest Service has released preliminary information about the helicopter crash in which pilot Bryan Jeffrey Boatman, 37, was killed.

It occurred on the Polles Fire in central Arizona when Mr. Boatman was approaching a helispot delivering supplies by long line to firefighters in a remote area.

He was the only person on board the aircraft.

Below is the narrative from the Forest Service’s Preliminary Brief:

Narrative: On Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at approximately 1216 MST, a UH-1H helicopter, N623PB, impacted terrain with one occupant on board. The aircraft was performing long-line cargo delivery operations in support of fire suppression on the Tonto National Forest when the mishap occurred. The aircraft was under exclusive use contract with the USFS.

The NTSB investigation into this accident is ongoing. At this time, there are no indications of immediate safety concerns with other similar make/model of aircraft. All matters related to public information must be disseminated through the NTSB.

Mr. Boatman flew for Airwest Helicopters out of Glendale, Arizona. He leaves behind his wife Elizabeth Marie Boatman and his 8-year old daughter Claire Elizabeth Boatman. The family chose to hold a private funeral service. Donations in his memory may be made to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation (wffoundation.org).

UH-1H N623PB
UH-1H N623PB. Training in 2016. Photo: Jose Navarro.

Helicopters drop water on burning ship

San Diego Harbor

Helcopters drop on shipboard fire
Helcopters drop on shipboard fire, screenshot from Airailimages video.

Helicopters with water buckets were called in to assist in suppressing a stubborn fire July 12, 2020 on an amphibious assault ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), which has been undergoing maintenance since 2018 in San Diego harbor. Multiple MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3 dropped water in succession on the burning ship.

Fred Johnson of AIRAILIMAGES sent us a link some Department of Defense video shot during the fire.

Another of our readers sent us the photo below, showing firefighters on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.

Firefighters USS Bonhomme Richard
Firefighters on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.

This is not the first time an air tanker has helped firefighters battle a fire on a ship. From the Fire Aviation archives, October 31, 2014:

scooper dropping on ship fire
A water-scooping air tanker drops on a burning ship in the Adriatic Sea. Via @eb4ewl.

(UPDATED July 16, 2020)

One of our readers, Bean, told us about a video that explains what it is like to fight a fire on a ship like the USS Bonhomme Richard. It features Dr. Sal Mercogliano, a current firefighter and former sailor.

Here is the description of the video, from YouTube:

“On the morning of Sunday, July 12, 2020, at 8:50 AM PDT, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) moored at Naval Base San Diego, Pier 2 reported a fire in the lower (Deep V) vehicle deck. The ship activated the emergency response system and a 3-alarm fire was triggered resulting in the dispatch of fire units from Federal, National City, and San Diego Fire Departments, along with crews from neighboring ships. Over the course of the day, the fire grew in intensity, the crews were forced to withdraw due to explosions, and the conflagration spread the length of the entire deck.

“Dr. Sal Mercogliano, a naval and maritime historian, former merchant mariner, and firefighter examines the visual evidence of the first day and discusses his assessment of the fire, how it spread throughout the ship, and response by the ship’s crew, shore and afloat fire apparatuses.

“This is an early examination of the event as fires still smolder on board the ship and a true study of the fire could be months away. All the opinions expressed are based on the evidence as they are known at the time of the recording. The videos used were pulled from YouTube.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Roger, Bean, and Fred. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Rappeller descending to a wildfire struggles with a tree

At the East Plum Fire in Colorado

(Revised at 6:39 p.m. MDT July 13, 2020.)

rappelling to the East Plum Fire in Colorado
Two firefighters rappelling to the East Plum Fire in Colorado. Screenshot from July 9, 2020 Denver 7 video.

A video shot from a helicopter on July 9, 2020 got good footage of two firefighters rappelling from a helicopter to initial attack the East Plum Fire about seven miles southwest of Larkspur, Colorado, south of Denver on the Pike & San Isabel National Forests.

It appeared to be routine at first. One of them landed safely on the ground, but the other appeared to have difficulty descending through a tree. Either the firefighter or the person’s rope, or both, apparently became entangled in the limbs of a fairly small tree about 15 feet off the ground. While the firefighter on the ground looked up and moved around, the hung-up firefighter was actively moving his or her arms around, perhaps trying to gather the rope below so it could be untangled and dropped again, so the rappel could be completed.

Rappelling East Plum Fire
Rappelling to the East Plum Fire in Colorado. One firefighter on the ground looks up at a second rappelling firefighter who appeared to encounter difficulty with a tree. Screenshot from July 9, 2020 Denver 7 video.

This went for about two and a half minutes before the firefighter made it to the ground, and all the while the helicopter was hovering. The view from the news helicopter’s camera was partially blocked at times, so I could not determine if the helicopter was maintaining tension on the rope, or if the weight of the firefighter was supported by the tree. But I imagine the pilot had to be very careful to not drag the firefighter up through the tree’s canopy. The rope and the firefighter possibly being entangled in the limbs could have made that inadvisable.

East Plum Fire
East Plum Fire. Screenshot from July 9, 2020 Denver 7 video.

A total of six firefighters rappelled into the fire which ultimately burned 0.3 acre. The next day, July 10, a hotshot crew hiked in, built and improved fireline around the fire, then hiked out. Six firefighters, possibly the six rappellers, spent two nights on the third of an acre fire and hiked out on July 11.

An air tanker dropped retardant on July 9 and a heavy helicopter assisted firefighters by dropping water on July 10.

The video can be seen on Facebook. The rappel begins at about 7:20.

More details about the East Plum Fire from the U.S. Forest Service.

We reached out to the Forest Service for more information, and received this from Lawrence Lujan, Regional Public Information Officer:

Rappelling into trees is common in steep, rugged and heavily wooded areas. Firefighters train regularly to handle such occurrences.  The Forest Service firefighter from Montana touched down safely with no injuries.


(Revised to add a quote from the US Forest Service received after initial publication)

Pilot killed in helicopter crash near Payson, Arizona

The helicopter was transporting supplies for firefighters in a remote area

(Updated at 8:35 p.m. MDT July 7, 2020)

July 7, 2020 helicopter crash
General area of the July 7, 2020 helicopter crash. ABC15 image.

Officials from the Tonto National Forest confirmed that a helicopter crashed July 7 while working on the Polles Fire in central Arizona. The only person on board was the pilot, who was deceased. He was identified in a press conference as Bryan Boatman, 37, with Airwest Helicopters out of Glendale, Arizona. He leaves behind a wife and 8-year-old child.

The Chief of the Pine-Strawberry Fire District said the pilot’s wife arrived at the Payson Airport as the body was being retrieved from the accident scene.

The helicopter crashed while transporting supplies for hand crews north of the main fire in a remote area only accessible on foot or by helicopter. After the crash was reported to the fire’s Incident Commander at 12:22 p.m. Tuesday, a Sergeant with the Sheriff’s office was transported to the scene by short haul, suspended on a rope under a helicopter. He and others began the process of the investigation and removing the pilot’s remains.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the UH-1H helicopter went down about 10 miles west of Payson.

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) was issued at the Payson airport due to the crash, Airport Coordinator Dennis Dueker said, grounding all flights in the area.

As of Monday night the Polles Fire had burned 580 acres 11 miles west of Payson, Arizona.

The Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team (IMT) #2 led by John Pierson assumed command of the fire July 6 at 6 a.m.

Six hotshot crews and three other hand crews are working in conditions described by the incident management team as extreme. They have been working shifts late into the evening for the last few nights, spiked out in remote locations relying on helicopters to fly in their food, drinking water, and supplies.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the pilot, and the firefighters that were working on the Polles Fire.

Map helicopter crash Arizona Payson Polles Fire
Map showing heat detected on the Polles Fire by satellites at 2:06 a.m. MDT July 7, 2020.