Helicopters in Yellowstone
The helicopter is supported by a crew of six Helitack supervised by a Foreman. The main season for the crew is from mid June to the end of September. If projects are available and budget allows the shoulder seasons are used for forestry work and training.
The helicopter supports many activities in the park in a variety of ways. It's primary job is fire support and search and rescue activities. Other uses of the helicopter include supporting trail crews in the park by hauling supplies and materials when horse packing is not feasible, or a variety of resource management activities such moving problem bears, aerial weed surveys, and hauling debris out if the backcountry.
When a "smoke" is reported to Dispatch the crew is alerted. If the decision is made to initial attack the fire at least two helitack and their tools are loaded onto the ship and away they go to the fire. After an aerial recon is completed the firefighting helitack crewmembers land as close to the fire as they can and proceed with suppression actions. They are prepared to stay out at least three days without needing to be resupplied.
If needed the helicopter supports the fire fighters on the ground. It can be equipped with a water bucket on the end of a longline that the pilot can fill from a river, pond, or specially set up dip tank filled by a pump, engine, or water tender. The pilot can then release the water over the fire at a spot requested by the firefighter. The helicopter can ferry in more fire fighters. The helicopter can then bring supplies into the fire internally or by using nets and a longline to "sling" the supplies in. This is a necessary and handy tool if there is no landing site near the fire and to prevent further resource damage if a helispot or landing area can not be made.
Did You Know?
At peak summer levels, 3,500 employees work for Yellowstone National Park concessioners and about 800 work for the National Park Service.