Firefighters at the Kern County Fire Department (KDFC) Air Operations, are always ready at any moment to jump into action to fight a fire or perform a rescue. A team is on call 24/7, seven days a week.
During the Water Fire near the Grapevine, the helicopter crew on Helicopter 408 were fighting the fire, but once they heard the call one of their own was injured, they switched gears.
Helicopter superintendent and rescue paramedic, Guy Lawrence, said it takes around ten minutes to switch the helicopter's interior to prepare for a rescue. After extensive safety checks, making sure all the equipment is on board and the harnesses secure, they begin their rescue.
They rescued Ethan Sanders, a hotshot firefighter who was battling the Water Fire when he was hit by a rock and sent 30 feet down the mountain. With several fractured ribs, seven staples and several other injuries, Sanders is home and healing.
The Fire Department didn't always have hoisting capabilities sixteen years ago.
“To now have a tool like this, hoist helicopter, you don’t have to cut down 15 or 20 trees to be able to land, in the middle of nowhere. Where you can come in with a helicopter, and safety extracts someone, and get them to whatever medical care they need quickly. It means a lot to all of us that work here," said Ken Wright,
Flight Crew Foreman with KCFD.
The helicopter is 8,000 pound with fuel and a pilot and can hoist up to 600 pounds. The firefighters also have the equipment to safely transport babies and toddlers in a baby bag that is hooked onto the harness. Along with the stretcher, they have what's referred to as a 'screamer suit.' Lawrence says, the suit coined its nickname because not many people are used to being hoisted up in the air, and sometimes they scream.