Fire Management Feature: Arizona's Helitack Modules - Moki and Weaver Mountain

BLM Arizona’s two Helitack Crews have had a very busy summer - Moki Helitack is a 10-person crew based on the Arizona Strip District in St. George, UT, and Weaver Mountain Helitack is a 10-person crew based on the Phoenix District in Wickenburg, AZ. Both crews utilize a Eurocopter AS350 helicopter as part of their overall module and have been instrumental in supporting fires in Arizona through its peak of activity this year. They have also gone on to support the firefighting efforts in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, and California.

In 2021, Weaver Mountain Helitack’s season started May 1 and they have over 220 flight hours to date, and Moki Helitack’s season started June 5 and they have over 240 flight hours to date. Both are currently assisting on fires in California.  

The primary mission of helitack is responding as part of an initial attack on a fire. The helicopter and specialized crew can insert firefighters into the fire area quickly, especially in areas where access by vehicles is limited and this can reduce the time needed to hike into remote areas. Helitack crews play an important role in not only being able to respond quickly and insert firefighters on the ground, but they also help to manage and support the helicopter in the delivery of water via a “bucket” to extinguish the fire, and aid in the delivery of additional firefighters, tools, equipment, and other supplies to the fire area in support of the firefighters on the ground.

The helicopter and crew are also used for reconnaissance missions, fire detection, to support Search and Rescue, and to support both suppression and prescribed fire efforts using aerial ignition tools that mount to the helicopter. One such aerial ignition device is the Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD) which initiates a chemical reaction within a small ball which is then dropped , along with  many others, on the ground. The chemical reaction creates high heat, then flame within the ball, which melts and ignites the grass and brush on the ground. This device has an important role in assisting firefighters on the ground with burn-out operations during fire suppression operations or landscape level prescribed fires, removing fuels to reduce fire intensity and activity.   

For more on BLM Arizona's Fire and Aviation Management program.

For more photos visit the Flickr Album BLM Arizona Helitack Modules

Helicopter with bucket dropping water on fire within burning trees
Arizona's Moki Helitack Helicopter performing buck drops of water on active wildfire.
Weaver Mountain helitack firefighters carry equipment toward helicopter in Aravaipa Canyon landing zone.
Arizona's Weaver Mountain Helitack firefighters carry equipment toward helicopter in Aravaipa Canyon.

 

Weaver Mountain Helitack in helicopter operating a plastic sphere dispenser over a wildfire
Weaver Mountain Helitack operating a Plastic Sphere Dispenser (PSD) assisting with burnout operations, removing fuels/vegetation on an active wildfire.
Moki Helitack Helicopter on helispot on the Arizona Strip.
Moki Helitack Helicopter on helispot on the Arizona Strip.