CAL FIRE Humboldt-Del Norte Unit completes Air Rescue Training

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FORTUNA- The CAL FIRE Humboldt-Del Norte Unit held its final day of Air Rescue Training at Rohnerville Airport in Fortuna on Thursday. 

Fire officials say it’s too early to know what the upcoming fire season will be like.

"It's really hard, I mean you can look at weather predictions and say, 'oh, we're not going to get the rain' and then you can base what your plan is off those predictions, but you really don't know until the heat of the summer comes on and the activity picks up," said Battalion Chief Kurt Dernedde with CAL FIRE.

CAL FIRE will begin gearing up for the fire season starting in April.  To prepare, this week, the Humboldt-Del Norte Unit has conducted Air Rescue Training, where 20 permanent staff were certified as rescuers.

"We start off just on the simple mechanics of hooking yourself up to the hoist and getting boomed out and lowered out of the helicopter and then from there, as the week goes on, the drills or scenarios get more complex depending on the type of rescue or how bad the patient is injured,” said Fire Captain Isaac Lake with Cal Fire.

The Air Rescue Program is 18 years old and the Hoist System, which brings rescuers and victims back up into the helicopter, has been used since 2012.

"There's a lot of rescues out there, especially in our terrain, with the logging and the remote areas where ground based rescues are going to take a significant amount of time and the beauty of a helicopter is we don't have to drive on the roads and we can get to just about anywhere and we can help rescue that person and get them to higher medical care quicker than they could via ground based," Fire Captain Lake said.

A Fire Apparatus Engineer whose been involved in three air rescues, Jhon Bonham, talked about how he's able to handle the pressure.

"Through training and repetition and just the years of service, the level of the people who we work with.  It's a very dynamic team environment and I think we train together so well and we're always together," said Bonham.

Air Rescue Training is held twice a year and consists of about six practice rescues and 35 hours of training each CAL FIRE member.

"Training is kind of our bread and butter and this program and everything that we do, it's something that just needs to happen to be proficient and go out and provide that service," Bonham said.