BLM Arizona improves efficiency in wildland firefighting

A BLM Arizona Helitack crew is now certified as only one of five crews in the nation with specialized training that improves response time to fires and increases the efficiency and efficacy of inserting and extracting wildland firefighters on incidents. The aerial wildland fire crew “Moki Helitack,” based in St. George, Utah, recently completed Single-Skid, Toe-In and Hover Exit/Entry Procedures (STEP) training. 

Lone firefighter with a helmet on and in a yellow nomex shirt walking and carrying a tool in a burned desert area with a canyon behind them and visible smoke drifting up..
Moki Helitack STEP Training improves efficiency in firefighting.

“The team has worked tirelessly to add to the array of tools they can provide to help the American public in managing wildland fires,” said Don Juan Kilmer, BLM Arizona State Aviation Manager. “This not only provides a more efficient way to insert personnel into incidents located in mountainous or remote rugged backcountry areas, but it also provides a quicker response in managing the fire.”

Arizona Strip District Fire Management Officer Ty Mizer said, “These skills can make a significant difference in catching a fire. It also adds a safety component and allows us to more quickly reach firefighters to extract them from remote locations when needed.”  

Helicopter hovering over the ground with three firefighters underneath.
Moki Helitack crew member signals helicopter.

Moki’s specialized skills also improve efficiencies when coupled with other resources on the fire. Using hover fill skills, for example, allows the helicopter to remain in a hover with the bucket attached and the crew fills the bucket manually with the support of a water tender or an engine supplying the water.

“In desert areas where water sources are limited, we can actually use a water truck with the helicopter hovering in the air while personnel fill up the bucket below the helicopter,” said Kilmer. “Now Moki has more tools in the toolbox for supporting the public."  

Helitack helicopter on the ground.
Helitack crew member prepares hook underneath helicopter.

STEP maneuvers conducted in this mission profile also include “single-skid” and “toe-in.” Single skid is when one skid (the runner attached to the underside of a helicopter) or a portion of one skid is in contact with the surface while the other skid, due to terrain considerations, is not in contact with the surface. Toe-in means the “toes” or the forward portion of the skids, are in contact with the surface, while the aft section of the skids is not in contact with the surface.

Moki Helitack’s home unit is the BLM Arizona Strip District.