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"This is what they're here for" KCFD performs hoist rescue to save teenage girl

The fire department's Helicopter 407 dispatched from Keene to Bear Valley early morning Tuesday to assist in locating and rescuing a teenage girl
Posted at 5:31 PM, Apr 03, 2024

KEENE, Calif. (KERO) — The KCFD says the night vision technology allowed them to successfully locate and rescue a young girl in Bear Valley.

  • Around 12:30 a.m. April 2, the Kern County Fire Department helicopter 407 was dispatched to Bear Valley Springs to assist in locating and rescuing a 14-year-old girl.
  • The helicopter crew took seven minutes to fly from Keene to Bear Valley, saving valuable time. The KCFD says the crew wore night vision goggles to navigate the terrain and successfully locate the girl.
  • KCFD Public Information Officer Jon Drucker says the night vision technology allows KCFD to be a 24/7 rescue crew, and helicopter crews get re-certified in the night vision gear every 60 days.


If you can't get somewhere on foot or in a car, you take to the sky. Recently, Kern County Fire Department Helicopter 407 flew over the hill from Keene to Bear Valley to help rescue a young girl.

"This helicopter could launch from this pad and go 100 miles per hour," said Jon Drucker.

Drucker is Kern County Fire's public information officer. He says Helicopter 407 was called to Bear Valley around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning to assist in rescuing a 14-year-old girl.

Using the helicopter saved valuable time. It made a nearly 30-minute car ride only seven minutes in the air.

"They were on the scene very quickly from the time that they launched here from the helipad we're standing on," Drucker said.

Flying over the mountains and into Bear Valley in the early morning hours meant it was cold and dark.

"In this deep canyon, they're surrounded by rock outcroppings, they're surrounded by trees," said Drucker. "All of those things are life and death hazards for the rotor blades on a helicopter."

Drucker says the crew's technology allowed them to navigate the conditions. The crew wore night vision goggles to fly safely and scan the area.

While flying overhead, Drucker says the crew noticed a light source.

"By them noticing that that light was very different from the rest, they had a suspicion that this was the young teenage girl that they were looking for," he said.

Drucker says one of the firefighters used his phone to drop a location pin and sent it over to ground rescuers.

"She was hidden underneath a big rock. Guaranteed she was very scared–wild animals come out at night and it was cold," Drucker said. "Those coordinates put them right there on that rock."

Drucker says the helicopter crew was able to perform a hoist rescue to safely remove the girl from the rocky area and reunite her with her family.

Without the night vision technology, Drucker says KCFD couldn't be a 24-hour rescue crew.

And, it isn't a one-and-done training. KCFD helicopter crews have to be recertified every 60 days, ensuring their skills remain sharp.

Due to the various terrain Kern County has, KCFD says helicopter rescues are not uncommon.

"Within the last few weeks, this helicopter actually flew into Mojave and was able to airlift through hoist rescue, an individual who was hurt riding a quad," Drucker said.

The helicopter crew in Keene says this latest hoist rescue was the fourth one they've completed in the mountain area so far in 2024.

"They practice and they train to do this right every time. So, this is what they're here for," Drucker said. "In this case, it was just another success, and they take pride in doing what they do."

The KCFD says maintaining their fleet, including helicopters, is imperative to ensure they can safely complete all calls. Drucker says helicopter 407 has been flying since the Vietnam War, but the department routinely updates it to keep it running properly and, he says, most importantly, safely.

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