National Wildfire Coordinating Group

2018 WOR Day 5: Air-based Medevac

Ribbon symbol for survivor next to the Wildland Fire Leadership logoWeek of Remembrance June 30-July 6

This Week of Remembrance is dedicated to all those who have fallen in the line of duty and is intended to serve as an opportunity to renew our commitment to the health, wellness and safety of wildland firefighters.

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Dutch Creek Incident and the loss of firefighter Andy Palmer, we are called to remember the lessons learned from that incident and how extraction by helicopter can play a role in emerging medical incidents.

For the 2018 fire season, there are currently nine National Park Service and five Forest Service Short-Haul Programs in active status. The common mission of each program is the safe and efficient extraction of an injured patient. Increased interagency support and cross training has proven to enhance the awareness of best practices and most importantly provide for the safest environment not just for the patient, but for the rescue crews as well.

Below we address considerations and resources on how methods of helicopter extraction may affect your decision-making process when confronted with an emergency incident, while in the field.


Considerations for Fireline personnel:

“We honor and remember through learning”

Brit Rosso
Director, LLC

  • Have you reviewed the Incident Medical Plan (ICS 206) with your crew this shift? (NWCG-ICS Forms)
  • Is everyone on your crew familiar and practiced with the 2018 Incident Response Pocket Guide and its updates?
    • Medical Incident Report and how to use it? (pg. 118-119)
    • Helicopter Extraction Operations (pg. 116-117)
  • Do all members of your crew know the location and distance to medical equipment and fireline medical personnel? Consider risk management including the distance, time and number of personnel needed to perform a ground based rescue VS. a Short-Haul/Hoist mission.
  • Never assume that a helicopter will be available. Always have a solid plan for a ground-based extrication.
  • Keep all medical resources headed to the incident/patient until the patient is in higher level of care/on the way to the hospital. From the Dutch Creek Investigation Report: “USCG told TSO, “We were stood down by SOF because they would be hiking FC1 to a landing zone and a Forest Service helicopter would land and pick FC1 up.” TSO reported to USCG they had just spoken with a medic on scene and FC1 was now “in and out of consciousness” and “has got blood loss.” USCG stated they would call SOF back. At 1446, USCG called COM trying to confirm the helicopter cancellation and subsequently SOF retracted cancellation of USCG helicopter.”
  • Does your crew know where to find out where the closest extraction resources are to them? NWCG:
  • Does the local unit have an agreement in place with a local air ambulance service? Are the frequencies communicated to fire personnel? What are the aircraft’s capabilities/limitations?
  • Remember to ask questions if you are unsure of Short-Haul/Hoist aircraft capabilities and always strive to lookout for yourself and those around you.



The topics, review, and resources for the NWCG “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance” have been contributed by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, the Wildland Fire Leadership Subcommittee, the Interagency Helicopter Operations Subcommittee, interagency dispatchers, and many other field SMEs.

Week of Remembrance
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Aug 2023

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