Aviation Program
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Washington state DNR Wildfire Aviation and Helitack are an elite firefighting team available for rapid response to wildland fires. Wildfire Aviation is comprised of 8 specially modified UH-1 (B-205) helicopters designed for water/retardant delivery in remote locations with the capability to infiltrate Helitack crews into otherwise unreachable terrain. Wildfire Aviation employs 11 skilled and carded Seasonal Aerial Firefighters, 1 Chief Pilot charged with the training and management of the Aerial Firefighters and 6 highly skilled Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT) charged with maintaining, modifying, and preparing the aircraft for what is arguably a very challenging and dangerous mission.
Many in the program are decorated war veterans. Just to name a few awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Air Medal with Valor, and Purple Heart. In addition to being carded by the USFS for interagency firefighting, all assigned DNR Aviators carry current Class II Medical Certificates and FAA Commercial Rotor Wing Instrument Certification. Many maintain a Certified Instrument Instructor rating and Airline Transport pilot certification. We are very proud of our program and the determined staff who risk it all for the people of Washington state.

Our crews

The Helitack Crews consists of 44 crewmembers including, a Base Managers, 2 Assistant Base Managers, Transportation Supervisors, 4 Helicopter Managers, 6 Squad Leaders, 10 Firefighters, and 8 Support Drivers. Currently, the program staffs 5-7 initial attack helicopters on a daily basis. Crews are available for dispatch throughout all of Washington state. Aircraft are off the ground and enroute to the fire within five minutes of dispatch. The goal of Wildfire Aviation and Helitack is to keep all fires under 10 acres. This is why Initial Attack (IA) and Helitack work so well together. Once the team arrives on a fire, planning is conducted in the air with real time satellite imagery analysis and the Air Attack platforms coordinating all assets that arrive to fight the fire. Once a water source is identified, aerial firefighting commences with each asset following prescribed traffic patterns into the fire and out of the water source site delivering water and retardant to the most threatened areas of people and property.
During the summer, crews are staged in multiple locations throughout the state based on fire danger, red flag warnings, lightning, and general pre-suppression needs. Crews must be ready and available to be deployed away from the Ellensburg base for up to 14 days at a moment’s notice. In the past, some of these locations have included: Omak, Colville, Deer Park, Dallesport, Pomeroy, Wenatchee, and Olympia.
DNR helicopters are dispatched using the following criteria:
•    Wildfire threat to human life
•    Wildfire threat to natural resources  
•    Wildfire threat to developed property
Though the top priority is initial attack, DNR helicopters can be used for extended attack or large wildfire incident support provided that they can immediately be reassigned to initial attack duties when the need arises. The initial attack is key to DNR's goal, which is keeping the wildfires less than 10 acres in size.
Providing Equipment & Services for Fire Suppression
Call When Needed Contractors