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Bullhead City firefighters go through helicopter training

BULLHEAD CITY — Being a Technical Rescue Team member with the Bullhead City Fire Department often can require working with a helicopter. Wildland fires often can be stopped fast with helicopter water drops. Monday, the Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue provided two different levels of training for the firefighters.

The training was divided into two parts for two groups of firefighters. The first training with the helicopter was in regard to wild land firefighting. The Kingman-based helicopter, with the use of a “Bambi Bucket,” can make water drops of 100 gallons each. Lead pilot and instructor Terry Miyauchi explained how and when the helicopter can be useful.

Safety information was presented and the dangers when working around a helicopter also were explained. Communication skills between the pilot and the fire department were covered. It also was explained to the fire fighters what type of landing area that is required for the helicopter. Then it was hands-on.

The helicopter would load with 100 gallons of Colorado River water and the fire department would ask the pilot to make water drops in specific areas of Rotary Park. There are two different types of water drops available from the helicopter. A “spot drop” will concentrate all the water being dropped in one specific area. This is done with the helicopter hovering and not moving. A “line drop” is done with the helicopter traveling at a slow speed and dropping the water over a long area. Usually with 100 gallons, the area is limited to about 50 feet in a line fashion. Firefighters would radio the helicopter and state what kind of drop they wanted and where. Then they would watch the pilots perform.

The second part of the training was with members of the department’s Technical Rescue Team. This Rescue Team consists of highly trained firefighters, which can be deployed almost anywhere, even by a helicopter. The training was just that, getting on and off the helicopter when the helicopter is running in flight. The helicopter hovers usually about three feet off the ground.

Members of the TRT practiced as if they were deployed onto a cliff. They exit the helicopter and walk the skid to the ground. Then, stepping up from the ground onto the skid, then the step and into the hovering helicopter also was practiced. Training with a helicopter can prevent injuries and accidents from occurring during a real emergency.

The helicopter is staffed with a pilot and officer/paramedic. The DPS Ranger is often called to emergency scenes throughout Mohave County.

Depending on the need and availability of helicopters they have covered many other areas of the state. During an emergency the speed of the DPS helicopter, ability to land almost anywhere, and trained personnel can make the difference between life and death.

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