CAL FIRE uses the Super Huey’s for fast initial attack on wildfires. The copters are able to deliver a seven-person fire crew wherever needed as well as battle fires with water drops. The copters are also used for medical evacuations, backfiring operations on wildland fires using either a helitorch or a ping-pong ball machine-Chemical Ignition Device System ( CIDS), cargo transport ( internal and external loads), mapping, crew shuttles, and numerous non-fire emergency missions. Since 1997, CAL FIRE helicopter crews have been trained to do “short haul” rescues. Short haul involves a crew member being lowered by rope from a hovering helicopter to an injured or trapped person below. Once hooked to a harness or basket, both the victim and crew member are then carried exposed below the helicopter a distance to safety.
"In that system we had to make rope rescues where we dropped a rope down, attached a rescued victim, and with them suspended from the rope down below, the helicopter flew them, sometimes miles, to a safe place to unload," CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Randy Rapp said.
CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Randy Rapp, who oversees the Vina Helitack and the Red Bluff Unit, presented the new equipment and CalFire firefighters demonstrated its capabilities.
"With the new equipment we no longer have someone suspended below the helicopter. It is a much safer operation as we can hoist them right into the copter," "The 170-pound motorized cable hoist has a 600 pound load capacity, a 258 foot cable and cost $188,000," Chief Rapp said.
The motorized rescue hoist, and ten others like it are now equipped in CalFire helicopters throughout the state, were all state funded, Rapp explained.
"This is a great tool and we are really excited to have it here," Chief Rapp said.
CALFIRE Helicopter 301, based in Hemet, has had the hoist system for about 3 years now. Riverside County paid for the hoist out of grant monies. Hel-301 has recently hosted training at their base for the other CALFIRE Helitack Crews and now they are going to the CALFIRE academy in Ione to teach other CALFIRE Helitack Crews in the operations of the hoist as well.
The hoist is stored in the CALFIRE Helitack Support trucks when not needed.
Having the ability to remove the hoist from the helicopter when not needed to save weight is a key factor in CALFIRES decision to deploy the hoist to the Helitack crews. Set up only takes about 7-8 minutes with a full Helitack Base crew to assist in transforming the helicopter from firefighting to rescue mode.
CAL FIRE Copters
Date of manufacture: 1973
Crew: 1 pilot, 2 fire captains, and 5 firefighters
Gross weight: 10,200lbs
Payload: 324 gallon bucket
Cruise speed: 126mph
Range: 250 miles
Endurance: 2 hour