Pole Creek Fire Heli­port

Serve Daily - - COMMUNITY - By Ed Helmick

The Span­ish Fork Air­port played a ma­jor role in fight­ing and con­trol­ling the Pole Creek and Bald Moun­tain fires. You may have seen and heard the he­li­copters com­ing and go­ing from our lo­cal air­port. When the air­port man­ager, Cris Child, was asked about the for­est fire fight­ing ac­tiv­ity at the air­port he pro­vided the fol­low­ing com­ments.

"It has been an amaz­ing thing to watch as these in­cred­i­ble ma­chines take on the job of bat­tling the im­mense fires.  We had to com­pletely clear the ramp area of air­craft to make room for the big he­li­copters. The 80 mile an hour down­wash from some of these birds as they take off could flip a typ­i­cal air­plane up­side down. We have had hun­dreds of sup­port per­son­nel sta­tioned at the air­port, thou­sands of gal­lons of jet fuel be­ing hauled into the air­port daily and tents scat­tered across our lawn ar­eas. We mowed down the weeds and sta­tioned the big­gest he­li­copters on the old aban­doned cross­wind run­way. When that area filled up Bran­don Wil­son took his bull­dozer and cleared a spot on the fill dirt out by Main Street so that we could po­si­tion a 3rd Sky Crane heli­copter out there. At one time we had 3 Sky Cranes, a Chi­nook, sev­eral Huey’s, an A-Star and a For­est Ser­vice Co­bra with in­frared cam­eras map­ping the fire as well as many smaller he­li­copters. The sign they put up at the Air­port gate read "Pole Creek Fire Heli­port.”

"At times I thought I was in an episode of MASH as I lis­tened to the thump, thump, thump of the heli­copter blades de­scend­ing into the Air­port. The FAA sent in a  tem­po­rary con­trol tower and all of a sud­den we be­came as reg­i­mented as Salt Lake In­ter­na­tional Air­port in our ap­proaches and de­par­tures which was fun to lis­ten to but also a great con­fi­dence builder in that we would be able to han­dle all the traf­fic safely. The com­mu­nity sup­port has been in­cred­i­ble. On a reg­u­lar ba­sis, we have seen lo­cal restau­rants bring din­ner to the crews. Cases of fruit and cook­ies just kept ap­pear­ing even a hun­dred or so ice cream bars in a cooler with dry ice was de­liv­ered and was a huge hit with those work­ing here. The pro­fes­sion­al­ism and ex­per­tise of the crews has been amaz­ing. It is a big re­lief to hear that the fires are com­ing un­der con­trol and soon our busy lit­tle air­port will be able to re­turn to nor­mal."

For your added in­for­ma­tion the Erick­son Air-Crane is de­rived from the mil­i­tary Siko­rsky S-64 Sky­crane and put into com­mer­cial en­ter­prise by the Erick­son Log­ging Com­pany. Erick­son Air-Crane now owns the man­u­fac­tur­ing cer­tifi­cate for the heavy-lift heli­copter and has de­vel­oped spe­cial­ized equip­ment and tech­niques for fire­fight­ing. The wa­ter tank un­der the heli­copter can hold and dis­perse 2,500 gal­lons of wa­ter. They also have a quick re­fill sys­tem that can fill that wa­ter tank in just a few min­utes. The Boe­ing-Ver­tol CH-47 Chi­nook and Bell UH-1 ”Huey” he­li­copters carry ex­ter­nal wa­ter buck­ets. All these he­li­copters are amaz­ing and ex­pen­sive fire­fight­ing tools.

3 top His tweet asked peo­ple to stop do­nat­ing. Con­sid­er­ing the sheer vol­ume of items be­ing dropped off, the com­mu­nity’s con­tri­bu­tions were ac­tu­ally caus­ing more lo­gis­ti­cal prob­lems than help at that point.

Am­ber Sav­age, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Red Cross of Cen­tral and South­ern Utah was “over­whelmed” with the num­ber of do­na­tions re­ceived at the Nebo School Dis­trict Cen­tral Ware­house in Salem.

“With­out ask­ing, stuff will come, so we try to say, ‘If you’re go­ing to bring stuff, please bring this stuff,’” Sav­age says of what of­ten hap­pens in this area dur­ing a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

Al­though phys­i­cal do­na­tions are no longer needed, those of the mone­tary va­ri­ety are al­ways ap­pre­ci­ated. “Cash is king,” says Sav­age, be­cause it en­sures the right kinds of sup­plies at the right time.

Thank­fully, evac­u­a­tions have been lifted and most peo­ple have re­turned home.  “I don’t want to say we can take a breath,” Sav­age says. “But, thanks to the ef­forts of the fire­fight­ers, I think we all can take a breath.”

The Amer­i­can Red Cross is now back in pre­pared­ness mode. Since do­na­tions of phys­i­cal items are no longer needed, Sav­age’s call to ac­tion is to en­cour­age ev­ery­one to “re­view pre­pared­ness plans with fam­i­lies. Check your 72-hour kits. Make sure cru­cial phone numbers are mem­o­rized.”

Above all, be­ing pre­pared for a dis­as­ter of this kind re­quires part­ner­ship on every level, some­thing the peo­ple of Utah and Juab coun­ties know quite a lot about.

Wa­ter drops from an Air Crane Heli­copter.

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