The U.S. Forest Service currently has approximately 275 rappellers located at 13 bases. The U.S. Forest Service uses Type 2 (Medium) helicopters for rappel. Each year, rappellers train at the National Helicopter Rappel Program’s Rappel Academy at Salmon AirBase, in Salmon, Idaho. Click here for more helitack photos.
Helitack crews are teams of firefighters who are transported by helicopter to wildfires. Helicopters provide rapid transport, enabling helitack crews to quickly respond and assess a wildfire situation. Helitack crews may land near a wildfire or, if equipped and trained, rappel from a hovering helicopter. Once on the ground, crews build firelines using hand tools, chainsaws, and other firefighting tools. They often remain overnight in remote locations. After they have completed their assignment, crew members may pack up to 120 pounds of equipment over difficult terrain to reach a pick-up point. Rappellers often prepare helispots (helicopter landing zones) that provide better access to a fire. Helicopter crew members may also perform other duties such as tree falling, firing operations, delivering people and equipment, and managing helibases.
Emergency Medical Short-Haul
Four of the U.S. Forest Service helitack crews are also trained and equipped to perform Emergency Medical Short-haul. Emergency Medical Short-haul is used to remove a critically injured party by inserting (lowering) trained emergency response personnel attached to a fixed line beneath a helicopter into an area to attach the injured party to the line and then extracting (lifting) the emergency response personnel and injured party out of the area and transporting them to definitive medical care.