Price Valley Helitack Program

Logo for the Payette National Forest Fire and Aviation Program   Logo for the Price Valley Helitak Crew     Logo for the USDA Helirepelling Crews                                                                             

 

 

Andy Guest, Helitack Superintendent (aguest@fs.fed.us )
Cory Dolberry, Helitack Superintendent (cdolberry@fs.fed.us)
Nicholas Bohnstedt, Assistant Helitack Supervisor (Nbohnstedt@fs.fed.us)
Mark Oetzmann, Assistant Helitack Supervisor (moetzmann@fs.fed.us) 
New Meadows, ID 83654
April-October, Helibase (208) 347-0327
November-March, NM Ranger District, (208) 347-0306 or 0318


Location - Price Valley Helibase is located at the historic Price Valley Guard Station, 12 miles west of New Meadows, Idaho  on the west side of the Payette National Forest near the town of McCall. New Meadows and McCall are located in West Central Idaho, 2.5 hours north of Boise. The surrounding area offers a great number of recreational opportunities. There are numerous trails for hiking and mountain bike riding. The area also offers a variety of rivers and lakes for fishing, boating, rafting and kayaking. You will find a newly renovated base in a pristine setting with the Weiser River running through the middle of the helibase. Helibase amenities include a 24-person barrack, shower and laundry facilities, training facility and rappel tower, warehouse and shop, along with an office, locker room and ready room.

History - As early as the 1950's, helicopters have been used on the Payette NF in the suppression of wildfires. Helicopters have been used to transport firefighters to fires, resupply fire personnel, evacuate injured persons and retrieve smokejumpers from fires. The earliest known use of helicopters for fire control use dates back to the mid 1950's.  Over the years the use of helicopters has increased steadily. "Helitack" bases were established at centralized locations with regard to fire occurrence and high land values usually associated with timber base areas. The first such helitack base was at Price Valley on the New Meadows Ranger District. This base was formally established in the early 1970's. In those days, a Bell 47G3B1, a three place helicopter was the most commonly used model mainly because this was all that was available.

Photos shows firefighters rappelling out of a helicopterWho Are We - The Price Valley Heli-Rappel Crew is a Type 1National Rappel Resource that’s primary mission is wildfire initial attack and large fire support. As our aircraft numbers increased so has our crew size. Starting with 12 in 1994, our current organization consists of 30 - 32 personnel. The makeup of the crew consists of 2 GS-9 Helitack Superintendents, the only permanent full time (PFT) positions. Additionally, there are 14 permanent positions offering varying amounts of guaranteed pay periods; 2 GS-8 Assistant Supervisors (18/8), 4 GS-6/7 Squad Leaders (13/13), and 8 GS-5 Senior Firefighters (13/13).Seasonally, we have the need for 14 - 16 temporary seasonal GS-4/5 Firefighters (1039s). Additionally, we often take a number of detailers on for the season.We contract two Type 2 Bell Medium rappel capable helicopters from mid-May through September. The primary mission of both forest-based helicopters is initial attack and large fire support across the region and nation. 

Rappelling is a fast and efficient way of getting resources to fires in remote areas. Firefighters rappel from hovering helicopters up to 250 feet above the ground. Typical fires are lightning caused, generally small in size and require 2-4 rappellers to suppress. Rappellers remain on the fire until it is declared out or relieved by other resources. At the end of the fire, rappellers will pack their gear, weighing 80-110 pounds to the nearest trailhead. Rappellers are a self-contained resource with the ability to remain on a fire for 36 hours without a resupply. Rappelling is only one aspect of the job. In addition to initial attack duties, the crew fills overhead line assignments, as well as performs traditional helitack duties on helibases. The helicopters and crew also participate in a variety of project work throughout the season. Projects range from flying supplies to remote lookouts, performing aerial recon, or slinging materials to remote sites for trail work, etc.  

The seasonal employees generally begin work around the beginning of May. Each year we conduct training in various aspects of firefighting, helitack, and rappelling. We start with the physical fitness tests and progress to refresher training to include: S-212, Fire Refresher, First Aid/CPR, Crew and District Orientation, Line Construction, Initial Attack procedures and protocols, S-271 Interagency Helicopter Crewmember Training, and National Rappel Training. The Payette fire organization holds a fire training week around the middle of May where several 200 level S and L Courses are offered. Price Valley Crewmembers are enrolled into as many of these classes as possible during this week.  Other training is picked up during the season as time permits. The fire season typically winds down in late September. However, we will often continue to employ seasonals well into October or beyond as forest project work dictates.

What We're Looking For - We will fill seasonal positions with highly motivated, independent and experienced firefighters. At a minimum, candidates are required to have at least one season working for a resource management agency working exclusively in fire. Competition for these positions is high. Most individuals hired have four to eight seasons in fire on IHC or hand crews and display numerous fire qualifications (i.e. EMT, FALC, ICT5, HECM, CRWB).

Price Valley hires individuals who have a high level of physical fitness. As we know, wildland firefighting is physically demanding work. Possibly the most demanding aspect of being a rappeller is the pack out. Rappellers are often put into remote locations and expected to be able to pack themselves and their equipment (up to 110 lbs.) out to the nearest road or pickup point. On the Payette NF, pack-outs of 4-8 miles are not uncommon. Therefore, physical fitness and conditioning are absolute necessities. Experience has shown that in addition to performing the job better, fit employees generally have less injuries throughout the fire season. As a result, the base has an excellent safety record with few recordable injuries. Additionally, individuals must pass the performance based elements in the National Rappel Operations Guide (NROG) during rappel training. If an individual cannot pass these elements, they will be removed from the Price Valley program.

We require that candidates meet rigorous levels of physical fitness. All candidates are tested the first week and, AT A MINIMUM, are expected to meet the following physical requirements:

· 1.5 Mile Run:  11:00 minutes or less

· Pull-ups:  7

· Push-ups:  25 in 60 seconds

· 85# Pack Test:  3 miles over level terrain in 90 minutes or less

· WCT 45# Pack Test:  3 miles, 45 minutes (condition of hire)

Please remember these are minimum requirements. All applicants are encouraged to exceed these minimum requirements. WE CANNOT EXPRESS ENOUGH THE IMPORTANCE OF SHOWING UP IN GOOD SHAPE. Candidates should expect to PT once or twice daily during the first three weeks of the season, and 1 to 1½ hrs. daily for the rest of the year. Typical activities include power hikes, runs, weight lifting, and stretching. While off base on assignment, the crew is expected to physically train when the opportunity arises.

Opportunities - If you are interested in a seasonal position with the Price Valley Heli-Rappel Crew, you must apply through USAJOBS. We typically request a referral list by early January each year. Competition for these positions can be very stiff.  It would be to your advantage to apply by our deadline and call us as well as mail (or email) a copy of your resume. Historically, we have accepted personnel on details to help meet their developmental needs as well as gain experience in helitack. Detail commitments are for the full season. For detail opportunities and availabilities contact the Price Valley Helitack Superintendents.

Educational tours are available on request. Contact the Helitack Supervisor for details





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/payette/landmanagement/resourcemanagement/?cid=fsm9_030948