Coast Guard helicopter uses hoist for night rescue of injured firefighters

It happened September 6 in Northern California

Coast Guard Hoist Rescue firefighters
Screengrab from the video below.

On the night of September 6 a Coast Guard helicopter conducted a hoist rescue of two firefighters that had been injured by a rolling rock while battling the Middle Fire in Northern California on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Press release from the Coast Guard:

The Coast Guard rescued two injured firefighters from a ridge near Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area early Friday morning.

At 9:14 p.m. Thursday the U. S. Forest Service requested the Coast Guard’s assistance with the rescue of two injured firefighters. The firefighters had been hit by falling rocks and reportedly sustained serious head, back and leg injuries while working in steep terrain on the Middle Fire.

MH-65 Dolphin helicopter Coast Guard
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay. (Coast Guard file photo by Chief Petty Officer Brandyn Hill)

Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay launched an MH-65D Dolphin helicopter crew who flew to the area and located the injured firefighters within 10 yards of the fire line in a clearing that the fire crew on scene had cut in the forest to allow for an extraction. The helicopter crew approached the extraction zone and made a high-altitude, tree-top hoist from 240 feet, the helicopter’s maximum hoist range.

The injured firefighters were flown to Weaverville airport and transferred to emergency medical services.

“This rescue was extremely challenging due to the proximity to an active fire, the high elevation and the rugged terrain,” said Lieutenant Commander Derek Schramel, the pilot in command of the mission. “I’m very proud of how our crew worked together with our fire service and law enforcement partners in Trinity County to save these two men.”

If you’re having trouble viewing the video, you can see it on YouTube. reports that the two firefighters worked for GFP Enterprises, a company that provides contract fire crews. According to Paul Asher, spokesman for the company, “One had a broken femur [on his] right leg. The other one had an injury not as bad to the shoulder area.”

The Middle Fire started September 5 and was listed at 223 acres on September 8, one of 26 fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Our Opinion:

These two firefighters were lucky that the Coast Guard helicopter was available for a hoist rescue at night. Too often that is not the case. The federal and state agencies with major wildland fire programs need to develop this capability on their own, either by contracting for it or developing it in-house. Few U.S. Forest Service helicopters can fly at night and very few if any have hoists, although some can perform short-haul operations during daylight hours. CAL FIRE has installed hoists on all of their state-owned helicopters and the new Firehawks they are purchasing will also have hoists and most likely will have have night-flying capability. Kudos to CAL FIRE for setting the example.

A firefighter injured at night in a remote area during the day or night should not have to depend on luck. They deserve to have extraction services by air available within an hour.

The article was edited September 10, 2019 to include the fact that some U.S. Forest Service helicopters can perform short-haul operations during daylight hours.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chad and Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Dozens of new fires on Shasta-Trinity NF in California

(UPDATED at 8 a.m. PT, August 1, 2015)

The Shasta-Trinity clearly has a massive wildfire situation on their hands. The lightning-caused fires detected Friday have grown significantly in the last 24 hours. Compare the map below with the similar zoomed in image at the bottom of this article.

Shasta-Trinity fires wildfires
Fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest between Redding and Eureka, California at 3:40 a.m., August 1, 2015

Friday night a spokesperson for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest reported that over the previous 48 hours the forest received 440 lightning strikes that resulted in over 60 fires. The largest of these fires is the Rail Fire near the town of Hayfork and is approximately 800 acres.

The County Sheriff issued mandatory evacuations because of the numerous fires around the towns of Hyampom, Trinity Pines, and the small communities outside Hayfork. A Red Cross Shelter is at the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Hayfork. The Trinity County Sheriff’s office or local law enforcement officials have the most current and detailed evacuation information.

To make matters worse, the area is under a Red Flag Warning for “abundant lighting” Saturday afternoon. Wetting rain is not expected to accompany the lighting.

Unless there is an extraordinary change in the weather over the next several weeks, this fire fight will last until the snow falls.


(Originally published at 8:47 a.m. PT, July 31, 2015)

Map Fires west of Redding
Map showing new fires between Redding and Eureka, California, at 3 a.m. PT, July 31, 2015. (click to enlarge)

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest has at least 30 new fires, some large already, between Redding and Eureka, California (see the maps above and below). Storms on Thursday brought 150 lightning strikes that ignited the fires. Small towns in the general vicinity include Hyampom, Weaverville, Hayfork, Denny, and Willow Creek.

Three of the fires west of Denny and southwest of Hyampom appear from the satellite imagery to be more than 100 acres each.

The count of 30 fires was reported by the Shasta-Trinity NF at 7:20 p.m on Thursday, so there could be more that will be detected over the next couple of days.

map of wildfires west of Redding 7-31-2015