Fire Line Emergency Assist by Elko Helitack

firefighter injured helicopter extraction
BLM photo

In 52 minutes Elko Helitack and Corta Fire personnel assisted a firefighter on the line with a medical emergency and transported him to the local hospital. Elko Helitack was prepared to shuttle the firefighter off the line because of the certification to perform “Single-skid, Toe-in, hover Exit/Entry Procedures (STEP).” This was the first medical STEP extraction in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

firefighter injured helicopter extraction
Having the ability to use a helicopter during an emergency is a way to mobilize faster and decrease the time to the hospital. Photo by Greg Diemel, BLM.

This enhanced helicopter operation was developed by the BLM Salt Lake Helitack in response to the firefighter community’s need to insert firefighters in remote locations and assist in extracting injured firefighters. BLM Fire and Aviation program quickly recognized the added utility and now have four helicopter crews that are STEP qualified, Elko, Las Vegas, Salt Lake and Moab.

firefighter injured helicopter extraction
Corta Fire extraction August 2019. The crew and EMTs prepare to load the injured firefighter to the helicopter for quick transport. BLM photo.

Story and photos by BLM.

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.