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A three person helitack crew on the ground, looking into the sky, after being lowered from a helicopter. One is in the process of disconnecting from a rope.Helitack crews are teams of firefighters who are transported by helicopter to wildfires. Helicopters provide rapid transport, enabling helitack crews to quickly respond and assess a wildfire situation. Helitack crews may land near a wildfire or, if equipped and trained, rappel from a hovering helicopter. Once on the ground, crews build firelines using hand tools, chainsaws, and other firefighting tools. They often remain overnight in remote locations. After they have completed their assignment, crew members may pack up to 120 pounds of equipment over difficult terrain to reach a pick-up point. Rappellers often prepare helispots (helicopter landing zones) that provide better access to a fire. Helicopter crew members may also perform other duties such as tree falling, firing operations, delivering people and equipment, and managing helibases.

Emergency Medical Short-Haul 

Four of the U.S. Forest Service helitack crews are also trained and equipped to perform Emergency Medical Short-haul. Emergency Medical Short-haul is used to remove a critically injured party by inserting (lowering) trained emergency response personnel attached to a fixed line beneath a helicopter into an area to attach the injured party to the line and then extracting (lifting) the emergency response personnel and injured party out of the area and transporting them to definitive medical care.

A helitack crewmember and a flexible patient cradle being lowered from a helicopter on a hoist and line.