Training for the unexpected

A Whitehorse wildland firefighting crew watches as their crew leader exits a hovering helicopter during training near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Jim Kathrein, regional protection officer, instructs Whitehorse wildland firefighters before hover exit training near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Helicopter pilot Ian Ptichforth hovers the aircraft a few feet from the ground as Whitehorse wildland firefighters practise hover exits and entries near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A Whitehorse wildland firefighter climbs on to the skids of a hovering helicopter as he practises exiting from the hovering aircraft near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Helicopter pilot Ian Ptichforth hovers the aircraft a few feet from the ground as Whitehorse wildland firefighters practise hover exits and entries near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A Whitehorse wildland firefighting crew watches as their last crew member exits a hovering helicopter during training near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Jim Kathrein, regional protection officer, right, watches as Whitehorse wildland firefighters exit from a hover helicopter during training near Chadburn Lake on May 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Wildland firefighters face many unpredictable circumstances while battling blazes in some of the territory’s most remote terrain, which is why they train for all kinds of situations.

Hover entry and exit training with a helicopter, which Whitehorse crews were practising on May 22 near Chadburn Lake, is vital knowledge for firefighters should they ever be dropped off at a location without a prepared helipad or need to make a hasty retreat from a blaze.

“It’s important for us to know that our crews are able to do that in case we are in a situation of last resort where it is needed,” said Mike Fancie, Wildland Fire Management information officer.

The weight limit of a firefighter doing a hover exit or entry maneuver with an intermediate-sized helicopter, like the one used during training, is 220 pounds or 100 kilograms.

During training, the crews learn not only how to board and disembark a hovering helicopter, but also about the helicopter itself.

“There are a lot of details that have to be kept in mind that relate to the specifics about where it’s safe to be around a helicopter, what kinds of things you need to expect when you’re moving the doors around, what are safe things to grip, as well as how to communicate between yourself and other parts of your team and the helicopter pilot to make sure while all this is happening, and a helicopter is like a foot above your head, you’re able to ensure that everything is happening as safely as possible,” said Fancie.

To ensure this safety, crew members must position themselves on the ground in a way in which they can be seen by the pilot or the front seat crew member. They must also climb on and off of the helicopter as slowly and smoothly as possible to ensure that the pilot can retain control of the aircraft as the helicopter’s weight and centre of gravity changes.

Two main rules for doing the hovering maneuver, said Fancie, are to “make sure that you are always able to communicate with the pilot or the crew leader in the helicopter, as well as maintain three points of contact as you’re moving in or out.”

Helicopter hover entries and exits are not used very often in the field, said Fancie, since safety of the responders is first priority. If they can achieve their objective without a hovering helicopter, they will use that first.

“I think it does a good job of highlighting some of the unique challenges and the athletics skills of our crew members,” said Fancie. “It’s not something you’d normally think of when you think of things a firefighter would have to do.”

All Yukon government firefighters are trained annually for hover entry and exits.

Other training for the firefighters includes fireline and workplace safety, fire weather and behaviour, how to fight and patrol fires, how to use a radio, incident command, basic orienteering and survival skills, a fitness test, use of basic tools, and how to safely work heavy equipment, air tankers and helicopters.

Contact Crystal Schick at crystal.schick@yukon-news.com

Wildfires

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Copies of the revised 2021-22 budget documents tabled in the legislature on May 14. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Liberals introduce new budget with universal dental and safe supply funding

The new items were added to secure the support of the NDP.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters on May 13. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Cap on rent increases will take effect May 15

The rollout of the policy is creating ‘chaos,’ says opposition

Yukon News file
A 21-year-old man is in custody after a stabbing in Porter Creek on May 14.
One man in hospital, another in custody, after alleged stabbing in Porter Creek

A police dog was used to track the suspect who was later arrested in a wooded area.

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Most Read