5.2.4. Basic Wildfire Suppression Strategy and Tactics Copy

Jeff Co

Rotary Wing Aircraft

Main Parts of a Helicopter:

Main Parts of a Helicopter:

Required Safety Equipment (When working with helicopters):

Eye Protection
Hard Hat c/w Chin Strap
Hearing Protection
Nomex Clothing
Leather Gloves

Sling Load Operations:

Used to transport loads to and from inaccessible locations.
Longlines, (20-60 metres long) are helpful in areas of tall timber, steep terrain and large helicopters, (minimizes rotor wash).
Similar safety concerns as with bucketing.
Additional concerns as Crew Members may be more directly involved in sling load operations, hooking and unhooking loads.
Training required prior to participating.

The following should be observed when working around helicopters:
  • Before approaching and before departing the helicopter, obtain the pilot’s approval to do so, (establish eye contact, pilot will give a visual signal, usually a nod or thumbs up.
  • When approaching or departing the helicopter stay in the field of view of the pilot (always approach from the front or side, UNLESS the ground is sloping uphill away from the helicopter), (see Figure 73 Helicopter Safety Zones).
  • Never approach the tail area.
  • Never walk uphill away from a helicopter.
  • Never walk downhill towards a helicopter.
  • Ensure that chin strap with hard hat are worn.
  • When approaching or departing maintain a crouched body position with head up, eyes forward.
  • WALK, do not run or rush while working around the helicopter.
  • Do not carry anything over shoulder height when approaching helicopter.
  • Carry hand tools parallel to the ground.
  • Never throw items near the helicopter.
  • Ensure all objects are secured within the helicopter landing area. Surprisingly large items can be carried aloft by the rotor wash and surprising light or small items can cause significant damage to the helicopter or become airborne missiles endangering personnel.
  • While the helicopter is approaching wait outside the landing area, in a crouched position. If you are unable to do this, due to terrain constrictions, the next best option is to crouch right where the nose of the helicopter is expected when landed.
  • Have a clear plan about the loading of personnel and equipment into the helicopter.
    Ensure your gear is organized and stowed in a secure fashion prior to the helicopter arrival. All equipment should be carried to the helicopter in one trip.
    When loading a helicopter, ensure that the fuselage and storage compartments/doors are not damaged. Saws, gas, and bear spray must be stored in the tail boom and never throw anything around a helicopter.
    Ensure pilot knows what you are loading into his machine, such as extra heavy objects, sharp objects, potentially dangerous items such as, fuel, aerosols, bear spray, bear bangers, firearms/ ammunition, any pyrotechnical or explosive device.
  • Ensure seat belt is secure, when on board the helicopter. If shoulder harnesses are installed they must be worn.
  • Do not talk to the pilot or distract them, during take-off or landing. Remain in your seat unless or until you are given permission by pilot.
  • Turn your two-way radio(s) off while in the helicopter cabin to avoid feedback. Don’t forget to turn them back on when you deploy to the field.
  • Never smoke near the aircraft.
  • Use extreme caution when moving vehicle near helicopters.
  • Ensure pets are controlled when a helicopter is anticipated.
  • Dress for all types of weather. Weather can change rapidly and change flight plans or delay pick-up.
  • Take required medications with you in the event of flight delays.
  • When inside the aircraft use headsets or helmets provided.

Helicopter Safety Briefing:

A Helicopter Safety Briefing should be conducted anytime:

  • A new pilot or helicopter will be operating with the crew.
  • A new person, (Firefighter, Ground Personnel), will be working with the helicopter.
  • A new or changed procedure will be carried out with the crew.
  • The pilot, crew or any individual requests a briefing.

Basic Helicopter Operations:


Firefighters must be alert and engaged during bucketing operations. Heads up, watching for the position of the helicopter, the bucket and overhead hazards that might be worsened by the helicopter rotor wash.

Stay clear of the drop zone. Helicopter buckets have capacities of 300 to 9800 litres, depending on the type of helicopter in use, which represents 300 – 9800kg of water weight.

Risk of accidental release of the entire bucket assembly which can cause serious injury to ground personnel.
Bucket sway during maneuvering by the pilot and can knock branches, dead tops from adjacent trees.

Buckets are often used to fill portable tanks. Precise positioning is required by the pilot. Firefighters should be careful when attempting to assist in positioning the bucket over the portable tank. The bucket is a heavy suspended load. Do not be in its way. Do not attempt to “steer” it until the pilot has it in the opening of the portable tank.

Rotor wash can increase fire activity during close proximity bucket operations. Be alert to possible flare-ups, fire escapes and potential entrapment. One solution to avoid flare ups is to direct the pilot to drop from a higher altitude to wet the overall area first before delivering close-in precision drops.