DNR FIRE AVIATION PROGRAM
Washington State Helitack Crew is an elite firefighting team available for rapid response to wildland fires. The Helitack Crew consists of 32 crewmembers including, a Base Manager, 2 Assistant Base Managers, a Transportation Supervisor, 4 Helicopter Managers, 6 Squad Leaders, 10 firefighters, and 8 Support Drivers. Currently, the program staffs 5-6 initial attack helicopters on a daily basis. Crews are available for dispatch throughout all of Washington State. Aircraft are off the ground and en route to the fire within five minutes of dispatch.
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.
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 ten acres in size.