Encore! Encore! Prep Day Helo Demo Gets Applause!

Most people only get to witness aircraft dump hundreds of gallons of water over a wildfire on TV news, but this past Saturday all that changed for attendees of the 11th annual California Day of Preparation. Cal OES enlisted Sacramento Metro Fire Air Operations to put on an aerial water demonstration over the Sacramento River adjacent to the event in Old Sacramento. At precisely 12:30, the rumbling “whoop, whoop, whoop” sound of the red and white helicopter could be heard growing louder as it approached the drop zone. Within moments, the UH-1H Huey swooped down, hovered 20 feet over the surface while its nozzle dipped into the water and suctioned 375 gallons of river water into its onboard tank. Thirty seconds later, it took off, leaving a trail of water and wake behind it. Then, to the audience’s surprise, it circled back around at low elevation over attendees and headed for the drop zone, its siren wailing. The result was worth the wait. The Huey flew in at a quick clip and opened its tanks, releasing a white waterfall over the river. Boaters and people on-shore suddenly felt the cooling spray of residual mist from the water that would have been dropped onto a fire had this been a real emergency. The crowd cheered and Chief Pilot Montie Vanlandingham and Tactical Flight Officer Capt. Grant Russell responded with a second and third aerial water demonstration. This was the first time Metro Fire Air Operations attended and performed at prep day and for many it was the highlight of the event. If you missed the demonstration, you really missed a thrilling display. However, you can watch it by clicking below.

Video by: John Larimore

Metro Fire Air Operations has been in operation since 2001 and have two aircraft in their current inventory. They support all of the Sacramento Metropolitan area and various agencies within their local area including Federal and State agencies.

Both Huey Helicopters are equipped for:

* Wild Land Fire suppression using Simplex mounted water tanks that hold approximately 375 gallons of water. (By the way: the snorkel can hydraulically pump 375 gallons of water into the tank in about 30-40 seconds)

* They’re also equipped for Search and Rescue Operations (SAR) with rescue hoists in both aircraft for patient extraction in remote areas.

* All crew members are paramedics and can provide Emergency Medical Support (EMS) and care for patient transport to local hospitals

* They also have external load capability with Long-lines to move cargo and equipment and perform large animal rescues.

* And if that’s not enough they perform as a “command platform” during various types of emergency operations.

* They Provide support to law enforcement agencies

* Transport of personnel and equipment

* Reconnaissance

* And Public Education

Annually they drop approximately 120,000 gallons of water on wild land fires with an average of 150 dispatched calls for fire suppression support. Additionally they average approximately 280 of flight times per year. Air Operations consists of three (3) pilots, four (4) Tactical Flight Officers and six (6) Paramedic Aerial Observers (rescuers).

Photos by: Daysi Capdevila

Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd joined Cal OES as a public information officer in 2014 after a 20-year career in television news as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. He's a Cal State Sacramento alum and former US Navy yeoman and Air Force brat.

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