Firefighters have been a crucial line of attack on the massive wildfires burning throughout Northern California, protecting homes and creating critical containment lines. When the winds shift on a wildfire, firefighters can find themselves in a pickle, becoming trapped within the confines of the wall of flames. Even heroes need help sometimes.
Two firefighters became trapped by flames while fighting the Woodward Fire in Point Reyes National Seashore. They called in for reinforcements and were rescued by the helicopter crew of the Sonoma County Sheriff.
“Had it not been for that helicopter there, those firefighters would certainly have perished,” said Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick at a press briefing.
The entire rescue was caught on video, which you can watch above. Thanks to all of our first responders fighting the dangerous fires of NorCal right now!
Here is a description of the rescue from the Sonoma County Sheriff:
8-22-20 6:00 AM – While you were sleeping …
Night Long Line Firefighter Rescue **Warning Graphic Language**
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.
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.