Bear Visits and a 44 Magnum

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.

Ken Carlton
Bell N212HL
Tok, Alaska

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Helicopter 520 enroute to the Angora Fire

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.

Ken Carlton
Bell 212 HP
Helicopter 520

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The Lily Pond

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.

Ken Carlton
Bell 212 HP
Helicopter 520

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Long Lining 2007 (A Noodle in a Wildcats Ass Part 2)

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.
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Mexico Trip

The first order of business for fire season 2004 was to go get the helicopter, something a little less complicated than cooking one of my wife’s gourmet dinners, and a whole lot more complicated than cooking one of my dinners (which typically consists of opening a can of chili beans). Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for the helicopter, the Bell 212 had been wintering in Mazatlan Mexico and needed to be flown to Fresno California, where it would be prepared for the 2004 fire season.
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Dancing with the Fat Girl

When I was in high school there was a girl who, although somewhat over weight, was very popular with the boys. Her name was Pat, and although I never dated her, I heard she was a wonderful dancer. It seems even though a little heavy around the waist, she was light on her feet, and made a great dancing partner.
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Combat Versus Fire Fighting

Several people have asked me lately if flying on fires is “pretty tame” after flying a helicopter in combat operations in Viet Nam. I’ve thought about it a bit, and I have to say “It’s incredibly similar!” Ever present in both is the excitement, the danger, and the adrenaline rushþ everything, I suppose, except the shooting. And if you REALLY miss the shooting, you can always amend that by flying “low and slow” over someone’s marijuana garden, and someone is bound to fire a few rounds at you just to make sure you don’t miss Viet Nam TOO much. The similarities abound, and as I’ve done both with a helicopter, I thought I’d point out a few of them.

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Fire Season 2001 Conclusion and Fire Camp!

As you well know this year has been an active and dangerous fire season. Four USFS Fire Fighters were killed in Washington and two CDF pilots killed in California. The only difference in combat helicopter flying and helicopters fighting fire is we’re not getting shot at now. We tried to hit them hard and keep them small, and for the most part that worked. We all worked hard, but no summer fire season is really complete until you’ve had the “Big Fire.”

The Big Fire started out a single tree lighting fire with less than an acre of ground fire. All the ground crews were working the hundreds of other lighting fires. None of the look outs saw the smoke and no citizens reported it, that is until it was 50 acres and moving fast.
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Lightning Bust!

Lightning Bust

I think Jimmy Dolittle said, “There is no good reason to be flying near thunderstorms in peacetime.” There could be an exception, fire fighting with a helicopter. As all of you have seen on CNN and the national news, for the past week Southern Oregon had several days of intense lightning activity. This my story of a lightning bust.

Sure we had ample warning of impending thunderstorms and lightning. The question was, “Will there be rain with the thunderstorms?” The crews, both ground and air, had been on enough fires to be proficient at fighting wild land fires. We thought we were ready. Thunder clouds started building by 2PM, the wind was picking up and from the heliport in Lake View I could see down strikes to the west. I pulled on my nomex flight suit as the first calls of smoke reports started coming from the mountain top look outs.
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A Noodle in a Wildcat’s Ass

The other day I flew a long line mission. Forest Service smoke jumpers had jumped on one of our fires and had put the fire out. Now they had to hike out six or seven miles to the nearest road. They notified us that we needed a 150 foot line to reach down in the tall trees on the side of a steep hill. They also said they had 650 pounds of equipment that needed to be slung out.

I can’t blame them for not wanting to pack this stuff out, but if they had needed to pack it out, they could have. They are tougher than woodpecker lips! Even the girl smoke jumpers look like they could kick my butt. (I’m not afraid of them… just a little nervous) By the time I arrived over the smoke jumpers I had burned my fuel load down to about 400 pounds. I was about to be reminded why long lining is often compared to putting a wet noodle in a wildcats ass!

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