National Wildfire Coordinating Group

RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)

Helispot Management – A Skill for All Firefighters

RT-130 Decorative banner. Group of photos depicting wildland firefighters performing various duties.

Any firefighter may assist with helispot operations, even if they are not on a helicopter crew. Explore what it means to be a Helispot Manager so you can contribute to safe and efficient helispot operations.
Category: Aviation
Core Component(s): Fire and Aviation Operational Safety
Estimated Delivery Time: 30 minutes; Video Length: 11:14



Review helispot construction specifications, discuss Helispot Manager duties, and explore job aids/other references which help every firefighter contribute to safe and efficient helispot operations.

Facilitator Preparation

Facilitating the Discussion

  • Show the video.
  • Facilitate a small or large group discussion using the activity and discussion questions.

Discussion Questions

  1. Refer to the Aviation (blue) section of the IRPG.
    1. Discuss three factors to consider when selecting a helicopter landing area.
    2. What helicopter type are you most likely to encounter this season (Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3)? Describe the minimum safety circle and touchdown pad dimensions for the appropriate helicopter type.
    3. What are three items needed for safe operations at any helispot?
    4. How far should you clear trees and brush in the takeoff/landing approach for a one-way helispot? For a two-way helispot?
  2. Helispot Managers must always be qualified Helicopter Crewmembers (HECM), but any firefighter may be asked to assist with helispot operations.
    1. Review the list of Helispot Manager Duties and Responsibilities in NWCG Standards for Helicopter Operations, PMS 510.
    2. Identify actions on the list you may be asked to assist with and discuss how you can contribute to safe and efficient helispot operations.

Optional Scenario – Latitude and Longitude Conversion for Air Operations

  1. There are different formats for latitude and longitude coordinates. Degrees Minutes Seconds (ddd⁰ mm’ ss.s”) is the most common format used on maps. Degrees Decimal Minutes (ddd⁰ mm.mmm’) is used by aircraft guidance systems. As described in the video, incident personnel should use Degrees Decimal Minutes when communicating with air resources. Firefighters should be proficient in converting between latitude/longitude formats.
    1. To convert from Degrees Minutes Seconds to Degrees Decimal Minutes, divide the seconds by 60 to get the decimal minutes.
      1. For example:      48° 20' 30”    →       30” ÷ 60 = .5’ →     48° 20.5'
    2. To convert Degrees Decimal Minutes to Degrees Minutes Seconds, multiply the decimal (.5) by 60 to get the seconds.
      1. For example:      48° 20.5'      →       .5’ x 60 = 30” →     48° 20' 30"
    3. Practice converting from one format to the other using the example coordinates at 5:13 in the video. Hint: The coordinates in the video are the same location in different formats.
    4. For additional information on Latitude and Longitude Coordinate Formats and Conversion, refer to Basic Land Navigation, PMS 475.


Additional Video Information

This video is also available as a download.  (Size 1.18 GB)
Download the .srt file for closed captioning (you may need to right click and Save As). For information on how to add closed captioning to a video, see this how to page.

Note: For Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, right click the word download and select Save Link As; For IE, right click and select Save Target As.


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