Local Agencies Prepare for Wild Fire Season With Hoist Helicopter Training
May 5, 2015
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  • The Idaho National Guard is helping local agencies with critical rescue training as they gear up for the wild fire season.

    Members of the National Guard flew into the Mink Creek Nordic area to show over 40 first responders how to properly evacuate an injured person using a hoist helicopter.

    Multiple agencies took part in the training. From members of the U.S. Forest Service, Bannock County Search and Rescue, and the Fort Hall Fire Department
    They said these types of rescues are rare in Eastern Idaho but training is critical if they need to perform a rescue like this in the future.

    “You need to know ahead of time how you’re going to react to that situation,” said interagency aviation officer Robert Barnes.

    First responders ran hoist helicopter simulations Tuesday afternoon as part of the National Guard’s training, but before they were able to try a rescue they had to hit the classroom.

    “It’s all about safety,” said Idaho National Guard Staff Sargent Robert Toronto. “For the person on the ground to know what to look for to make sure the aircraft is as safe as possible.”

    Emergency responders sat through the Landing Zone Officer course in preparation for the mock rescues. They learned the proper procedure to be safe around the hoist helicopter.

    “It makes everything safer for us and the patients we will be picking up,” said Toronto.

    From the classroom the group headed up to the Mink Creek Nordic center for to experience how actual rescue is handled. Including strapping a patient to a sked, and getting them off the ground and into the helicopter.

    “This kind of training is important because it’s familiarity,” said Toronto.
    Rescue crews will call in a hoist helicopter when a life flight rescue helicopters don’t have room to land. Typically in dense forests or steep mountain cliffs.

    “The hoist allows a lot more access to patients because you can put a paramedic down on the ground to take care of patients, help stabilize them, and then to pull them out,” said Toronto.

    At the end of the training emergency crews ran a simulation. The helicopter dropped off the paramedic near the patient, once the patient was secure; he was raised up into the helicopter, and flown to the safe zone where crews were waiting to unload the patient.

    “Learn the procedures and protocols that would be necessary should we actually have to do it in real time,” says Barnes.

    The Forest Service says Tuesday’s training is part of firefighter training for the upcoming season.

    It’s the first time in two years that hoist helicopter training has been conducted in Pocatello.

    Just a handful of the people in today’s exercise had ever worked on this type of helicopter rescue.