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Firefighters get helicopter help battling brush fires

VOLUSIA COUNTY — Next to water, helicopters known collectively in Volusia County as Air One, are probably the most important piece of equipment firefighters have.

“We do bambi bucket operations. We do law enforcement, which is our primary job. We also do EMS,” said Todd Whaley, helicopter pilot.

Air One can stay in the air for more than two hours on a tank of fuel.

The hangar in DeLand puts them about 15 minutes away from any spot in Volusia County.

In neighboring Flagler County, the Fire Flight helicopter can be seen, almost on a regular basis, with a water bucket hanging underneath.

It’s easy to see why crews on the ground appreciate the help from above.

“The helicopter is amazing. If we didn’t have that, we’d really be in trouble by now,” said Dep. Chief Jerry Forte, Palm Coast Fire Department.

“With Division of Forestry, they have one aircraft that covers a large area of Central Florida. So they’ll be faced with that same challenge in which fire is the most pressing. Which one needs aerial assault is what we call it,” Whaley said.

When the fire in Daytona Park Estates erupted, Whaley was one of the first on the scene, with Air One. He dropped more than 100 buckets of water.

That, along with the army of ground troops, saved every house out here.

“Being that aerial observation platform, we can see exactly where it needs to go immediately so we do the best we can,” Whaley said.

Story by: Jason Wheeler, Reporter


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