Black Hills Helitack

One of the first helitack crews in the nation, Black Hills Helitack has operated safely and effectively since 1959.  Currently the crew operates with eight members, five of which are temporary seasonal employees. The primary purpose of the Black Hills Helitack is initial attack on wildland fires with the Black Hills Fire Protection District. On average the crew responds to 50 fires during a 105 day period from June until September. When local conditions allow the crew also travels nationally to respond to fire emergencies.

What We Do

Helitack crews are teams of firefighters who are transported by helicopter to wildfires. Helicopters enable helitack crews to quickly respond and assess a wildfire situation. The helitack crew will land near a wildfire and once on-scene, the firefighters will perform a variety of tactical and logistical missions.


The helitack crew uses a Type 3 helicopter to respond to wildfires and medical emergencies. The aircraft is capable of carrying up to five passengers and is able to reach high elevations, which allows the crew to provide assistance in more remote locations. The helibase is located outside of Custer, SD.

Mission, Vision & Values

  • Forest Service Aviation Mission. To provide safe, efficient, and coordinated aviation support for agency operations; to support partnership agreements; and to meet current and future needs through innovation and technology in order to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands.
  • Forest Service Aviation Vision. Lead the world in aviation, supporting natural resources and wildland firefighting.
  • Fire and Aviation Management Core Values. Safety, integrity, treating people with mutual respect, and land stewardship.