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2015 Firefighting Season Underway with US Agencies, Helitack Providers

By Staff Writer | July 1, 2015

Across the western United States, aerial firefighting crews are making aggressive preparations for what looks to be a busy fire season. A report by the National Interagency Fire Center has predicted above normal potential for fires for much of the northwestern United States from June through September.

In Montana, U.S. Forest Service helitack teams recently trained for the first time in “short-haul” rescues, where crews dangle up to 250 feet from a helicopter to reach fire-laden areas too dangerous to land in. This will free the agency from having to depend on other teams from the National Park Service or the Military.

California firefighting agencies, led by the Susanville Interagency Fire Center, are taking preemptive steps such as mapping potential fire areas, identifying suitable water sources, staffing lookout towers and conducting refresher courses for personnel.

Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters also has prepared for the season, readying its heavy-lift helicopters and aircrews, along with support crews, ground vehicles and other equipment. The company secured Exclusive Use (EU) contracts with the U.S. Forest Service, with four of its aircraft deploying to LaGrande, Ore., John Day, Ore., Pollock Pines, Calif., and Missoula, Mont., respectively. Columbia also has secured Call When Needed (CWN) contracts with various agencies.

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