CREWS BY NAME PHOTO DESCRIPTION PAGE
The Arroyo Grande Flight Crew, originally established in 1977, is based on the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California. The 29 person module made its debut season in 2001 with its primary mission of initial attack and large fire support. The Arroyo Grande program is the first to have a Type 1 Standard Category (Passenger carrying) helicopter, a Sikorsky S61N, and a fully certified Type 1 handcrew for rappelling and IA. "Use of the heavy helicopter allows expanded range, greater water delivery (750 gal via bambi bucket) and the ability to haul and rappel 16-18 firefighters, their packs and tools into rugged remote country," says Ted Mathiesen, Crew 527's Superintendent. "It makes us more versatile and effective." Here are some photos that tell the story.
Arroyo Grande: This shot was taken at Mammoth Lakes Airport during the MacLaughlin Fire.
C527 On Board: This view from aft shows the seating arrangement inside the S-61, all flight crew members are required to wear the SPH5 flight helmet while on board.
Rappel: AG rappeller descends from 125 feet during a currency rappel at Garcia Portero, Los Padres N.F. Line gear is worn during the rappel, as opposed to lowering it during a cargo load. This is done as a safety measure to allow the firefighter access to a fire shelter or a radio as soon as they're on the ground.
Rappeller Away: The spotter (in the door) communicates with the pilot as a rappeller descends the rope. The spotter monitors the entire rappel until the firefighter is safely on the ground.
Hemlock Fire Dust: The AG crew waits while a Bell 212HP drops water on a helispot during the Hemlock Fire, BDF. This is crucial for the pilot's safety especially since this helispot was located inside a burned over area
Hemlock Hike Out: The crew hikes out of "the hole" on the Hemlock Fire, BDF.
Democrat Fireline: Direct handline construction by the crew gives them immediate access to a safe area during the Democrat Fire, SQF.
Kelly Sewell: Dave Sewell flashes the ship with a signal mirror to identify his position and target for a water drop. It was difficult in heavy canopy and low light conditions.
527 Water Drop: Taken on the Kelly Fire, KNF. 900 gallons of water can have dramatic effects on a small fire, especially on a fire in steep, timbered country. Here, the S-61 makes a characteristic high drop
Kelly Line Up: The crew arrives at the helispot after successfully attacking the Kelly Fire, KNF.
Klamath: The AG crew successfully attacked the Masterson Fire, MDF. A small lightning fire in steep country near Scott Valley, Ca.
Bucking on Tickner: The Tickner Fire, KNF. A 2 acre lightning caused fire in a snag infested area that was burned during the 1987 fire season. This was a dangerous fire, it was crucial for the crew to maintain good communication and lookouts in case a snag fell.
Tickner Tanker: Photo courtesy of Dennis Brown, Air Attack for the Klamath. This picture was taken minutes before the crew landed and walked into the fire.
Castillo Burnout: The Castillo Fire, Fort Hunter Liggett, CA. AG conducts depth firing prior to firing out the dozer line, where this picture was taken from.
Crew on Castillo: AG broke into a firing group and a holding group. Here the holding group follows up and repositions behind the burners.
Blue Fire Airborne: Blue Complex, MDF. This aerial view of the fire was taken as we arrived at Alturas.
Blue 212 Drop: A Bell 212 makes a water drop on a flare-up during the Blue Fire. Good air to ground communication and target description are important if you want helicopters to be effective.
Blue Flame 1 & 2: AG was working quickly towards Arrowhead IHC building direct line until the ground fire transitioned to a crown fire. Shortly after this photo, the wind switched and this area was littered with spot fires.
Sawdog: Phil checks for widow-makers as he chugs through heavy downfall.
Blue Torches: Torching and sustained crown runs were common on this division. So were spot fires.
Blue Run: This was a late evening backfire which worked very well cleaning up the understory and saving a lot of big trees.
Blue Helispot: Poison Meadow, which doubled as our spike camp, made a great airfield for the S-61. We were able to load 18 firefighters per trip back to Alturas.
Shields Fire: Redding jumpers and AG folks wait for the S61 to land.
Shields Briefing: AG gears up and briefs before walking into the Shields Fire. We filled a request from the jumpers to assist after a wind event blew the fire outside of containment lines.
Shields Burn: AG patrols newly dug line on the slopover.
Highway Fire Helispot: Horseshoe Meadows IHC loads onto the S61 after helping us clear a large helispot on the Highway Fire, Sequoia N.F.
Highway Line: AG, Los Padres and Horseshoe Meadows IHC's leapfrogged up this steep mountain.
Highway Trenchline: AG crew trenches line to catch any rollout material.
Hyampom AT2: An PB4Y makes a drop near the crew.
Dozer on Hyampom: Dozers walk down after punching line to the top. The fire came roaring out of the bottom left and this line was lost.
Hyampom DC62: There was so much mud on the green that even if there was a spot fire, no one would want to go into all that goo.
Alamo Group: Kay, Monika and Embree pose for a shot after rappelling into this ¼ acre lightning fire on Alamo Mountain, Los Padres N.F.
Line Construction: 14 rappellers made short work of this small fire. AG digs line to contain the Alamo Fire.
Pines Silhouette: During backfire operations on the Pines Fire, CDF-MVU, a crewmember works past a rather large flare up. Photo by Embree Mayer.
Birch Fire: Intense burning in Pinyon/Juniper fuels, Taken on the Birch Fire, Inyo NF, 2002.
Rappel Sunburst: Rappeller Mike Sullivan performs a practice emergency procedure "spread eagle" during rappel certification. Photo by Tom Plymale.
Sudden Fire: Arroyo Grande, foreground and Los Padres Hotshots, background, regroup after stopping part of the Sudden Fire, Vandenberg AFB, 2002. Photo by Philip Hernandez
Dalton: Ragnar: The Dalton Hotshots pictured here with Burk Minor (WFF) ran the 199 mile Ragnar Relay to benefit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Photo compliments of SG. (0410)
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