Gallatin Rappel Crew
The Gallatin Rappel Crew is a forest service helicopter rappel crew hosted by the Custer Gallatin National Forest, the crew uses helicopters to deliver firefighters quickly to wildfires. Based at the Shenango Helibase in the scenic Gallatin River Canyon they are equipped to staff and support fires as well as other all-risk incidents. The Forest has hosted the helicopter rappel program since 1998.
The crew has a strong commitment to physical fitness and fire leadership. The Rappel crews primarly mission is initial attack fires, but may be used to accomplish prescribed burns, fuel reduction projects, trails projects including slinging materials for bridge and trail construction, repeater maintenance and installation and many other missions assisting the forest organization.
The Gallatin Rappel Crew is based at the Shenango Helibase in Montana. Shenango is located at the historic Squaw Creek Ranger Station of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. The ranger station and bridge were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Construction of the Squaw Creek Ranger Station began in 1935 by the CCC Company F-57. To cross the Gallatin River they built an open spandrel concrete arch bridge with concrete abutments and guardrails. The CCC continued to work at the Squaw Creek Ranger Station for many years constructing buildings, roads and trails.
Located in the scenic Gallatin River Canyon, Shenango Helibase sits below the limestone cliffs of Storm Castle.
Shenango's close proximity to Bozeman and the surrounding forest lands make it an ideal location. To support the helicopter operation an office and bunkhouse have been constructed. The helibase office is complete with an operations room, meeting and training facilities, locker room for crew members, and a contractors office for pilots and crew. The rappel crew continues to improve the physical training (PT) trails around Shenango as well as developing an outside workout area complete with pull-up bar, dip bar, free weights and other strength training tools. A pole barn for equipment upkeep and storage and a nine room bunk house round out the facilities. The bunk house is available for crew members to live in during the fire season. It has single rooms with a large kitchen and living room.
The Gallatin Rappel Crew manages two helicopters on exclusive use contracts. A Bell medium helicopter is used for the rappel platform along with a national large fire support helicopter. Both are high performance aircraft designed to meet the demands of firefighting in the mountains.
With the Bell medium helicopter firefighters can be placed with chainsaws, hand tools and all necessary equipment for suppression right at the heel of the fire. The ability to insert firefighters in the safest place, tactically close to the fire edge allows for quick and efficient fire suppression. The rappellers on the ground have food and water for multiple days of work without resupply. When the fire is called out, rappellers hike out to the nearest trailhead or road for pick up.