I’m flying a fire-fighting helicopter in Alaska, a Bell 212, this is the third time I’ve flown in the far North. The first time I flew in Alaska was 1970-71. Then, as an Army Pilot just back from Viet Nam, I flew the Bell 47, the Huey, the H-21, (flying Banana) and Co-Pilot on the Beaver fixed wing. The second time was in 2008 when it rained most of the summer. This year is different with many fires and a lot of flying for my Bell 212 and me.
Firefighting In Alaska Gallery
My Boss (helitack manager at Tok, Alaska) is cool, her name is Elisa, and she is tougher than woodpecker lips. She is also a competition Musher (sled dog racer) and dog trainer. She trained dogs for the Iditarod…and all this time you thought everyone trained their own dogs. Anyway, she is a pleasure to work with.
2 Hotel Lima
After finding bear poop under the tail boom, two days in a row, I’ve started packing my 44 Mag. Ruger Red Hawk . This is a 6 inch, Stainless Steel, double action revolver. I had it in my helmet bag before. We’re starting to get lightning fires and flying a little more.
Sunday June 24th we flew from Trimmer Ca. to South Lake Tahoe. The Angora Fire burned 259 homes and many other out buildings. I flew about seven hours and watched 3100 acres burn near Lake Tahoe, I was dipping out of Lake Tahoe. Our flying was restricted by heavy smoke. One our crew had friend that had to deploy his fire shelter, AKA; almost burned up in the forest fire. When he got inside the shelter (think space blanket) he found a local squirrel was in there with him. As there isn’t much spare room in a fire shelter the fire fighter decided to shove the squirrel out in to the fire storm. The squirrel having a highly developed survival sense resisted. After being bitten several times the Fire Fighter decided to let the squirrel share his fire shelter. Both Fire Fighter and squirrel survived with no further injuries.
Bell 212 HP
High in the Sierra Mountains is a small Lilly Pond, only a few humans have ever seen it. Even the animals have a hard time reaching it, due the solid rock cliffs and 9,500 ft altitude. It has no name, but was very important in putting out a lighting caused fire. It was a little tight getting in and out with the Bell 212, but with patience I was able to dip 200 gallons of clear high mountain water on each trip. It was very serine going in and out of this small beautiful pond and, as if by magic, the level of the pond never lowered. Perhaps it was spring fed, giving me the water I needed to save its neighbors from the fire. We repelled into the fire and left no clues to our actions that day and turned control of the area back to the Lilly Pond.
Bell 212 HP
One day this year I finally learned how to long line. It has taken the last 30 or so years, slow learner you say? You’d be right. Over the last 30 years I’ve managed to pass many a check ride for firefighting including the long line portion. I know, some of you are saying what’s a long line? Good question, so we’ll start there.