As soon as the Central Oregon Rappellers train with their new helicopter, it’s fire season, according to Airbase Manager Chad Schmidt. That happened Wednesday in Prineville.
Schmidt said the rappeller firefighters use a contracted helicopter every year.
The simple presence of the helicopter was not the only new aspect of training Wednesday. Fresh wildland firefighters rappelled out of the aircraft to simulate an active fire situation.
“I feel prepared to do this, and the rookie training was really awesome: great experience and a good progression,” said Central Oregon Rappeller Natalie Carpenter
Each rappeller carries up to 110 pounds of gear. After crews of up to two people suppress their remote wilderness fire. Afterwards, they will often have to hike eight to ten miles to be picked up.
The areas that crewmembers are dropped into are those experiencing backcountry fires, medevac situations or are not accessible by road.
These firefighters are able to cover all of Central Oregon from their base in Prineville.