National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Working With Helicopter Drops

Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Nov 2021


Consider the following questions when you have a helicopter with a bucket working in your area:

  • Is the helicopter a Type 1? For larger helicopters, increase the distance ground personnel must standby from the drop zone.
  • How might you use helicopter drops to knock down or secure a fire area that poses a direct threat to escaping control lines or climbing ladder fuels?
  • Do you have good communications?
  • Does the pilot have a clear understanding of the target?
  • Are there trees and/or snags in the drop zone?
  • Are ground crews clear of the area?
  • How will the winds affect the mission?
  • What is the turnaround time for the helicopter from drop zone to fill site?
  • Are people on the ground aware of the effects of the helicopter’s rotor wash?
  • Are you providing feedback to the pilot about drop accuracy? Be honest and constructive.
  • How can high altitudes and/or high temperatures affect helicopter performance capabilities? Be aware they may be significantly reduced.



Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


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