• Steam rises off of the colorful Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. Photo courtesy Jacob W. Frank


    National Park ID,MT,WY

Helicopter Initial Attack

Bison on Helibase
Bison grazing on the Fishing Bridge helibase.
Gear longline

Gear being transported with a helicopter using a longline.

Initial attack is the first action taken action on in an attempt to suppress, or put out the fire. In Yellowstone Park initial attack is often undertaken using a helicopter and at least two helitack fire fighters depending on the smoke report and how much gear the helicopter can carry. Once the smoke report is received, all info is relayed through the emergency service dispatch. The firefighters take pulaskis and shovels, a chainsaw and fuel, a small portable pump and hose, and their personal line gear. When the fire is spotted and initial report or size up is given, the pilot lands the firefighters as close to the fire as possible. If the decision is made to suppress the fire the lead fire fighter or IC (Incident Commander) requests whatever additional resources he or she feels is needed to safely suppress the fire. Safety is the number one priority in all fire suppression activities. Resources ordered range from additional personnel, to a larger pump and hose operation, to having the helicopter hook up it's bucket and dropping water on the fire. The pilot has the capability to collect water some distance from the fire and bring it to the fire. Their bucket drops are guided by ground personnel via radio.
Cargo net
If the firefighters need other supplies such as more tools, camping gear, the equipment can be longlined into the fire on a 100 to 200 foot cable remotely operated by the pilot or staged at a helibase near the fire.

If a fire can't be suppressed by the small initial attack crew, then the IC will order several squads (groups of 5 firefighters) or crews (20 firefighters) to come and assist with the suppression. If the fire gets very large quickly and is threatening valuable natural resources or structures often times a team is called in to manage the fire. A team involves hundreds of people from all over the country working under the Incident Command System (ICS) to help the agency suppress the fire.

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