A night time helicopter hoist operation was used to extract a firefighter who was injured during a night shift on the French Fire, about 36 miles northeast of Fresno, California. The Lessons Learned report does not give the date of the incident, but the fire started on July 28, 2014.
At approximately 12:53 a.m., a large snag within the burned area fell, hit adjacent trees, and caused a shrapnel effect of flying woody debris. A sawyer cutting brush ahead of the line construction effort for the Tahoe IHC was struck by an 8” diameter piece of this woody debris. As crewmembers rushed to the downed firefighters aid, he was found to be semi-conscious with a visible laceration to the head (caused by broken hardhat suspension).
The firefighter was stabilized and packaged by fellow hotshots, paramedics from a nearby Ventura County crew, and line medics. Within 1 hour and 10 minutes after the first report, the victim had been hoisted from the remote area by a helicopter and delivered to a hospital in Fresno.
The Dutch Creek protocols were used during the incident.
The Lessons Learned included:
- Choose extraction site away from fireline or black edge.
- When pilots use night vision goggles, all colors look the same — use glow sticks in a circular or spinning motion to call attention to the location.
- Having qualified medical personnel and equipment close at hand facilitates prompt patient care.
The report did not provide the outcome of the victim’s injury other than being conscious and stable upon arrival at the hospital, but aside from that, the management of the incident sounds like a success story — good planning and execution of the plan.
More details are in the report: Night_Hoist_Extraction_final