While extricating an injured firefighter last month the firefighters on the ground were not sure how large a clearing was needed in order for a helicopter short haul rescue.
Short haul means moving people suspended from a helicopter on ropes or cable from the rescue location to some place where they can be safely unhooked from the rope or cable. The helicopter can land and the people who were unhooked are moved inside the helicopter to continue the flight.
A Rapid Lesson Sharing report was completed, along with a video. Here is the text, followed by the video:
Do You know what a Short-Haul Site Looks Like?
On August 10, 2022, Collin Hagan was struck by a tree while working to suppress the Big Swamp fire in central Oregon. Collin’s crew immediately requested short-haul. Crews hurriedly improved potential sites by falling trees and cutting brush to varying degrees but said they weren’t sure what was actually necessary for a short-haul site. When the helicopter arrived overhead, the short-haul crew noted that although Collin was in an unimproved site, it was suitable for extrication and moving Collin to the improved site was not necessary.
The short-haul crew described characteristics of a potential short-haul site:
Generally, zero improvement is required to perform a short-haul. With the right flight conditions, we need an opening in the canopy, about the size of a Volkswagen bug. If the terrain is steep, excavating a platform can make it easier once we’re on ground to package and depart smoothly with the patient.
The purpose of this learning product is to provide the field a general reference for what a short-haul site could be. Always remember that final site approval is ultimately up to the helicopter pilot and crew. An in-depth narrative from the perspective of the participants and other lessons learned are forthcoming as part of the Big Swamp Serious Accident Investigation.
The final narrative will be posted at: https://www.wildfirelessons.net/viewdocument/big-swamp-fire-hit-by-tree-fatality.