With a lot less fanfare than Kate and William’s new royal baby, the newest member of DNR’s aviation program was introduced at a low-key event last week. Rotor 46 went into service on Wednesday (July 17) and very soon after participated in its first incident: the Brushy Ridge Fire, a 12-acre wildfire in Kittitas County.
Like DNR’s other five helicopters in operation, Rotor 46 has a respectable heritage and record of service to country (but not king or queen): it is a Bell UH-1H Army surplus copter known as a Huey. DNR purchased it for $1 through the Federal Excess Property Program to build into a fire fighter. As rebuilt by DNR, these Hueys can transport up to 6 crew members for backcountry fire operations, and carry 270-gallon water buckets on other runs.
DNR maintains a rapid response aviation program that helps to save money and protect property by dousing and containing fires before they grow into larger problems. Much of the land that DNR defends from fire is at lower elevation and, often, near homes, farms and towns.
DNR’s aviation staff responds to an average of 125 incidents per year and flies an average of 627 hours per season (based on ten-year average).
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