The Yellowstone Helitack Crew is an eight-person helicopter module. Their primary duties are responding to wildfires and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. They manage and staff an exclusive use contract Type 3 Helicopter based at Mammoth Hot Springs, seven days a week from mid-June until October.
Helitack are trained in all aspects of safe helicopter operations. These include size-up and initial attack of wild fires, passenger and cargo transport, and moving cargo via longline (i.e., sling loads).
Yellowstone National Park helitack and some park medics are also trained in an insertion and extraction technique called short-haul. Firefighters and medics hook up to a 150-foot rope, attached to the helicopter, and can then be inserted into places a helicopter cannot land safely. This allows them to get on scene quickly and safely to render first aid to an injured person. The patient is then packaged in a litter or a screamer suit, and flown from the scene to a place where they can be safely loaded into a waiting medevac helicopter or ambulance. Short-haul is also being used to place firefighters safely into wildfires where access routes into the fire are deemed too hazardous for ground travel.
When fire activity in Yellowstone National Park is low, the helicopter and helitack crew assist other forests and parks all over the United States with wildfire and SAR operations. When not working on wildfires or involved with search and rescue operations, helitack crew members assist with fuels projects, hazard tree removal, and assisting the many other park operations where their skills and unique talents are needed.