Firefighters rescued by short haul at night on Woodward Fire in California

Firefighters rescued by long line
Firefighters rescued by long line. Screengrab from Sonoma County Sheriff Department video.

A Sonoma County Sheriff Department helicopter crew rescued two firefighters in Marin County who had become entrapped on the Woodward Fire at Point Reyes National Seashore 23 air miles northwest of San Francisco. They used a long line (or short haul technique) suspended  beneath the the helicopter to retrieve the firefighters. It is not clear when this happened, but appears to have been August 21, 2020.

The video below has graphic language. Here is the report on the incident provided by the Sheriff’s Office:


Tonight, at approximately 8:15 PM, the Marin County Fire Department (MCFD) requested the Sonoma Sheriff’s Helicopter “Henry-1” respond to the area of the Woodward Fire, which is burning in an area of the Point Reyes National Seashore, southwest of Olema. MCFD requested an immediate rescue of two firefighters who had become trapped by fire on a ridgeline and unable to make it out of the path of the advancing fire.
Henry 1 is the only helicopter in the region capable of conducting a vertical reference long line rescue at night. When our Fire counterparts call for help, Henry 1 comes flying.

Woodward Fire map August 23, 2020
Woodward Fire map August 23, 2020. Wildfire Today.

Once on scene, Henry 1 located the two Firefighters, who were trapped approximately 75 yards from the advancing fire.

To complicate the situation further, the fire was creating strong, gusting winds that intensified as Henry 1 flew closer to the head of the fire.
Henry 1 landed approximately a mile from the Firefighter’s location and the Tactical Flight Officer (TFO) configured the helicopter for long line rescue with a 100 foot long line. The TFO subsequently attached himself to the long line and was flown to the location of the firefighters.

Upon arriving at the Firefighter’s location, the TFO placed a Bauman Bag rescue device on one of the firefighters and a Horse Collar rescue device on the other. Having a variety of different pieces of equipment on board at all times enables Henry 1 to quickly adapt to dynamic and dangerous situations. In this instance, Henry 1 was able to lift three people, the TFO and both Firefighters, simultaneously to safety. This enabled the rescue to occur in one attempt, as time was clearly of the essence, and limit the amount of time any of them were in the dangerous situation.

We have included the video from our TFO’s helmet cam, unedited, and it its entirety. This video does contain some graphic language, but we believe it is important for the public to get an accurate representation of how a nighttime long line looks and feels.

Most importantly of all, we are thrilled that both Firefighters are unharmed and in good spirits.

Our society depends on First Responders to charge towards danger and place themselves in difficult situations, such as fighting a wildland fire in pitch black nighttime conditions. Sometimes, even First Responders need a First Responder, and nothing gets to these remote locations faster than Henry 1.

**Warning Graphic Language is in the video**

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jeff and Joseph.