Fighting Fire With Helicopters

 

Interesting day at the Lodge today. Reports of smoke on the western flank of Shannon Ridge were met with an Initial Attack crew being deployed to the site. I got word from JP that they were planning on using the Lodge as a resource and staging area to deal with the reported lightning strike. The crew of four firefighters and pilot set down in an A-Star, dumped out their gear, left one firefighter on the pad then carried on to drop as close to the fire as they could. Tim, the dude they left behind, loaded all the crews tools, packs and other sundries into a heli net. He also set out some bladder bags which I helped fill with water from our hose. The heli returned, set down, the pilot removed his door, attached a long line to the belly and spooled back up. He then picked the sling load and flew it over to the crew that, by this time, had presumably reached the fire.

july_11_2015c270_0141The heli returned once again to start slinging full bladders for their piss-cans and sprinklers. After 3 turns he set down and added a second length of line to drop into a steeper location. After delivering the balance of the bladders he set down again and picked up Tim to deliver him to the fire after they both packed up the remaining gear and loaded it on board. The only item that was left behind was the dip bucket with it’s own dedicated long line. Left behind for the last pick because you aren’t allowed to have a passenger in the aircraft when long-lining. The heli returned one last time time to collect the bucket and spent the next hour or so slinging water out of (our) Lost Lake. The whole show was over by 2:00. A very professional operation, good teamwork, no fucking around. I’m quite happy to see my tax dollars being spent in such a fashion.

My day didn’t end there. Simultaneous to the firefighting show going on, I was in the topsoil pile, turning it over with the EX300. It had just returned to service after having the main valve manifold rebuilt due to a failed o-ring deep in the guts on the machine. Halfway through the pile the hoe started to run really rough. I throttled down and hopped up on the back to investigate. There seemed to be a lot more smoke than usual for a hot day so I shut her down to be safe. Checked for leaks and found none. Didn’t really like where the machine ended up sitting so thought I’d see if I could move it to a better spot. Fired up, tried a hydraulic function and the hoe just about stalled, so I pulled the pin. Called Brandt Tractor and got Ryan the mechanic who did the work on the manifold heading back up to see what was up. The forlorn hope being it was somehow related to the manifold repair but I was pretty sure it wasn’t. Ryan arrived and tore into the motor and soon found one camshaft bearing had spun, toasted the carrier and taken it’s neighbor with it. On a positive note, we both determined the valve train looked OK. Hopefully the damage is confined to the camshaft, with the failure most likely caused by the loss of oil flow from the spun bushing. Long story short, the camshaft and associated hardware is hooped and needs to be replaced, so the part will be ordered and, with any luck, won’t take too long to get here.

The day had one more surprise in store. As I was crafting this post I heard the heli once again. 7:30ish it set down with a net load full of gear then dropped the long line on the Lodge pad. A few minutes later the crew returned, packed up all the gear into the various compartments on the bird. I popped out to say hi under the idling helicopter, discovered that while the fire was nearly out, they would be returning on the morrow to finish the job. Before they lifted off I handed over a bag of Buds (and one cider, in case the lone female crew member might prefer that). Gotta hydrate after a hard day on the line after all.

8:00 PM and it’s raining. That’ll help for sure!

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