Helicopter firefighter crews ready for holiday weekend

DNR Helitack Crews
DNR Helitack crews are trained and ready for the 2011 wildfire season. Photo: Bryan Flint/DNR.

Yesterday, DNR held training for Helitack (helicopter-attack) crews in Ellensburg. News coverage included: KING 5 News and KAPP TV. Using helicopters for transportation, these specially trained crews can be quickly transported into remote and rugged areas to fight wildfires.

Large wildfires create a huge risk to health, human safety and natural resources, but they cost exponentially more to suppress as they grow in size—that is why Helitack crews are such an important part DNR’s fire program. By using Helitack crews, we can more quickly and more effectively contain wildfires throughout the state.

Helitack crews provide statewide aviation support to fire suppression efforts throughout the fire season, which runs from April to October. DNR staffs five helicopters daily to attack wildfires while they are small, which maximizes safety and efficiency. The aircraft can be off the ground and enroute to a fire within five minutes of dispatch.

Fire risks to increaseThis season’s extra precipitation may actually increase our fire risk. The moisture causes grasses and brush to grow larger, which adds to potential fuel supply. In dry conditions, which are normal for most of the state in late summer, the additional fuel can increase the rate at which fires spread and burn. Helitack crews augment DNR’s ability to contain fires while they are small, which is key to controlling costs.

Even though the Helitack crews are trained and ready for wildfires, we need people to be extremely cautious this holiday weekend and for the rest of the summer.

Fire safety tips for this Fourth of July

Here are some tips to help keep this a fun and enjoyable weekend:

  • It is illegal to discharge fireworks on state-protected and public lands;
  • Never leave a campfire unattended, and be sure it is completely out before leaving the area;
  • Be sure recreational vehicles have operating spark arresters;
  • Do not park any vehicles in dry, grassy areas as the heat from exhaust systems can ignite the dry grass.